Virtual Toast: 百年好合

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I’ve been sickly this week and for a lot of folks these few days are very trying. So here’s something short about something sweet.

One day about 27 years ago I looked in on my brother Pete and some of his friends, who were hanging out in his room. It was a big sunny room at the front of the house that all of us had rotated through at one point or another and on this particular day there were a lot of teenagers sprawled out all over it. One was a dark haired young girl with possibly the darkest, largest eyes and longest eyelashes I had ever seen. I waved sort of generically at everyone, some of them waved back and I went away because my brother and I, at seventeen and fifteen, were not terribly interested in each others’ daily lives.

At some point I learned that the beautiful girl was named Re. She was in the year behind Pete, with one of our sisters, and since I was mostly on my way out the door to college at that point, I remember little about her. But she did stand out a bit, like a particularly saucy gazelle among Pete’s otherwise mostly oafish (to my elder sister eyes) and mostly male friends. At some point I heard some baroque story of teen drama involving Re and my brother that culminated in him starting to moon her, in a fit of spleen. He was saved from this poor decision by a reverse wardrobe malfunction, when his belt buckle got tangled in his pants. (one of the high school teachers described Pete’s fashion presentation in this period as “an unmade bed”).

Like many other people of varying degrees of acquaintance, Re and I became Facebook friends in the last six or seven years. Facebook fractures lives like a kaleidoscope: what you see is reflected in brightly colored pieces that may have a true shape or may not. In life Re and I overlapped for one year of high school, many years ago, so I kept loose track of her Facebook path. She still has remarkable eyes. She is a dance instructor. It appears her life partners have not been what she hoped and deserved them to be. And she has a little girl following her in a path of agility and forceful personality.

On the other hand, my friend Sean (described more particularly here) was someone whose fate I tracked more closely. From all I could tell he had progressed into his adult life and career as a sound technician by a rather circuitous path, but as filtered through Facebook, he was a wry critic of the world around him, who enjoyed writing, Game of Thrones and coffee. Sometimes he seemed a trifle lonely, which troubled me slightly. There are plenty who enjoy solitude, and I didn’t know Sean well enough to be quite clear whether he was one of those people who prefer an ascetic life. But assuming he enjoyed the company of women, it seemed unreasonable to me that he shouldn’t have companions. My own experience suggests that for women in many times of life, unattached, heterosexual men who are both kind and of inquiring mind are less common than one would like. Sean seemed to enjoy children, his family, cats, and intellectual inquiry. And as a professional he had what one of my sisters once characterized as a major attractive feature: Displays Competence Every Day. But none of it was my business. Perhaps he was just very discreet.

Then one day I saw a Facebook picture with a coy comment, featuring Re kissing Sean on the cheek. And one with Sean kissing Re on the cheek. Since they lived in different cities and I had no mental association of them with one another in my mind, I just thought “Aw! Small world, I didn’t know they knew each other.” It took some days before I put it together. The reason they both now had complimentary facebook profile pictures of them together was not just the bonhomie of old friends who meet when one happens upon the other during a visit to a major metropolitan area. Apparently they were renewing a decades old connection, originating probably a few years after I knew both of them. It made sense. Ann Arbor is a small town, ours an even smaller high school, so I figured they would have had plenty of social overlap, although they would never have been in high school at the same time and place.

Not long after, Re posted about a discussion with her child, together with a picture featuring the discreet addition of a piece of jewelry on her hand. After a burst of “wait, what…?” the Internet Rejoiced.

I’m a sucker for happy endings. The world seems like a shitty place and so much of the time the internet feeds me story after story of people dying or struggling and people being mean, venial, ignorant, bigoted and violent. So when two people I know, however tenuously, can figure out how to be happy, I’m happy. I know they still have to figure stuff out. They still live in different cities, and no city is kind to people who practice the arts for a living. But here’s to you, Sean and Re – 百年好合 – 100 happy years together. I’m raising a glass to you and cheering you on from over here in my virtual and actual corner of the world.

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