I was going to write about The Godfather II today, as part of my Oscar series, but then I checked my e-mail before heading out to walk the dog.
In my in-box was a Facebook message and friend request from a long-lost friend, someone I'd been hoping to reconnect with for years.
The Cyclist and I became good friends in college, where we worked on the college radio station together and were both members of the Penn State Monty Python Society.
I met her through a mutual friend, a British guy who also worked at WPSU. The two of them were hanging out at the HUB (Hetzel Union Building), about to attend a concert in the under-21 club known as The Asylum. I rushed up to my British friend and went all fangirl on him, acting like he was terribly famous and begging for an autograph. The Cyclist told me later that for a moment she truly believed that he was a celebrity.
She was carrying around a set of drum sticks that night and was drumming on everything she came across. I thought that was fabulous.
We became friends almost instantly, the sort of friends that finish each other's sentences. We had plenty of in-jokes and lots of laughs. Much later, she was a bridesmaid in my first wedding, the only non-family member in the bridal party. Although we lived in different cities, we stayed in touch, writing letters and getting together every once in a while to relive old times.
A talented fiction writer, she often sent me stories she was working on, and I published one of them in the early issues of Wild Violet.
Then, somehow, we drifted apart. Ironically, it happened not long after I'd moved to Philly, which is where she also lives. I suppose it was because our lives were simply too different. She was a serious cyclist, and when I last saw her I was very overweight, not terribly physical. While I did send Christmas cards for a while, my occasional e-mails went unanswered (perhaps sent to an outdated e-mail account). I left her a couple voice mails but never heard from her. Of course, she was just beginning to date somebody new back then. And, to be fair, I moved about a couple years after we lost touch, so she might not have had my new contact info.
But as far as I was concerned, she'd made a conscious choice, for some mysterious reason, not to speak to me. And this haunted me. It would have been easier if we'd had a falling out, or an argument, but one moment we were going to a Bowie concert together at the Tweeter Center. The next, well, there was nothing.
I had recurring dreams about seeing her again, and in each of them she explained that she hadn't lost touch on purpose, that she still liked me. I didn't believe any of them. They seemed like some cruel wish-fulfillment fantasy. Deep down, I feared that I had unconsciously done something unforgivable, something that severed our ties for good. Earlier this year, I even wrote a poem about it.
It's harder, I think, to lose a good friend than to go through a romantic breakup. You expect more from your friends; you expect them to be there for you, to forgive your small failings. It's easier to understand when you fall out of love than when you fall out of friendship.
Earlier this week, I had a dream that The Cyclist and David Bowie both died the same day, along with a friend of ours from college, a film major who worked on my radio show (and whom I haven't seen since he gave me a copy of his senior film in an edit bay at Penn State). The three are linked in my brain because we all shared a love of Bowie's music and spent many hours talking about him and sharing thoughts on our favorite songs.
Of course, that dream news devastated with me, in part because I hadn't reconnected with either friend before they died. But then I read an article, in the dream, that David Bowie was alive. Therefore, I reasoned, my friends weren't dead either.
Upon waking, the dark dream still held a grip over me until I remembered that death, taken as a symbol, often means change. Perhaps it was a sign that things were about to change in our relationship. It was worth a shot. I looked up The Cyclist's name on Facebook, finding her right away. The profile pic showed her, from a bit of a distance, wearing a number for a race, standing in a green field amongst a number of cycles and cars. I sent her a brief message, telling her about the dream and giving her a brief update on my life, asking her to drop me a line.
I fully expected that to be the end of it, so imagine my surprise when this morning I got not just a message but a friend request. The note caught me up on her latest writing project, and she said that she'd had a weird dream the other night, too, about William Gibson. Back in college, Gibson was another obsession, since his cyberpunk vision of the world fascinated me, back in the day before everyone truly was jacked in all the time. She finished the note by saying she was glad I'd found her.
So I wrote to her a longer note, the note I would have written if I'd believed it would be returned, giving her a full overview of my life in the years since we spoke. And now I'm walking the dog and ruminating.
I don't know if I'll ask her why we fell out of touch. I imagine we were just running at crosscurrents, sending letters to old addresses, calling old phone numbers, busy with our own lives. Perhaps she meant to return my voicemails when she was less busy; a time that never came.
Honestly, I've done the same thing. My former martial arts instructor contacted me out of the blue and, after an exchange of several e-mails, revealed he was working at a hospital just 30 minutes from where my parents live. I really did mean to get back to him and suggest that we get together for lunch, but I wanted to wait until I had time to write a longer message. That was several years ago.
You know, I think I'll write that e-mail as soon as I get home.
Listen to your dreams.