So, S & B.
I reply to an email and meet S in the observation gallery above the swimming pool. Their son is in his final year in a class for students with "developmental challenges." He's on his school's swim team. Their daughter is studying to be a teacher, and, at the moment, is placed in a school in a nearby town. We haven't seen each other in seven years.
I met S in first year university, back in the mid-1980s. We became housemates for our last two years, and for a year some years later. I used to joke that she grew up on a television show. Her father was a minor executive with a WASPified name, her mother stayed at home and did volunteer work, and S herself was on multiple sports teams and students council at the more prestigious of her home town's two high schools. Her brother was a jock/party animal whose friends had nicknames like "Mad Dog." In university, she hung with any number of varsity athletes. They threw these awesome parties, somewhat reminiscent of the ones you see in American college movies.
Corners of those parties, I now realize, may have resembled ones mentioned in 2018 supreme court nominee hearings. But we must put new lenses on things we only half-heard, decades ago.
We were housemates when she had her first date with B. They married, and much of the friendship shifted to B, craft beer, and movies S and my wife didn't want to see. I kept in sporadic email contact with him, even in the years we weren't seeing each other much.
Her son swims laps.
The pool gallery update is strange, as though we hadn't seen each other since school, which is not the case. It's just that she'd had recently had a reunion with classmates. I recall most of the people she mentions, and haven't seen them in years.
"H? I don't think I've seen her since the month after your wedding."
"You saw H the month after my wedding?"
"I drove to Halifax and back that summer." This she vaguely recalls.
Along that way I stayed in one off-season dorm, one motel, one B&B, and surfed a few couches and guest-rooms. A couple I knew from school, then living on a military base. The Iron John guy from a recently-defunct writer's group. Carrie and her new husband. They were living on the coast then, across the street from the ocean. They owned two outsize dogs and were sitting a third. The only guest room was also the ones the dogs used. The hirsute residents accepted me as one of the pack, and I was grateful for crash space, but sleeping at the height of summer, in a house with no air conditioning, with three big dogs who have accepted me as one of the pack, proved a rank experience.
H was out of town when I passed through Ottawa heading out. I stayed on her couch on the return trip. We discussed the wedding, our new jobs, and my new girlfriend, who'd been my date to S and B's wedding. Make no mistake: the pace of life accelerates after twenty-five.
When H. was young, she had some kind of leg issue that made her walk awkwardly. It had to be corrected. One of the psychic aftershocks of her early life was that, for years, she did not consider herself attractive, even though she was staggeringly beautiful. Perhaps it explains why the person I met pushed herself in athletics and dyed her hair blonde.
"All this time," I once told her, "I was thinking you're a poised, hot, athletic blonde and you're really an awkward, unattractive brunette?"
H. and I continued to write after the summer of 1992, but less often as the years went on. We never made the jump to email, and I don't do social networking.
The big news was S's brother.
He passed quickly.
I wish I had known. I would've gone to his funeral.
His son is a private pilot for a billionaire. The private pilots form a social group, knowing if they're going to see the sights, they have to do so during their first days in Whereeverbury. They may be called at a moment's notice to set course for Nextburg.
S's father died sometime before that, when we were still in regular contact. Her mother is finally selling the house, and will move soon into a local seniors apartment, near S's family.
Lives passed between us like trading cards, nieces and nephews and second-removed acquaintances. Things that would make good fiction, but are not to be recorded here.
Her son steps out of the heated pool and onto the tile.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on.