I caught up with an old friend on Wednesday. Dave and I have been friends since way back in the nineties. He was always the slightly eccentric, lovely man, with strong convictions. We shared conversations about many things, sport and politics being the major topics, when we weren’t out together trying to pick up.
It was a surprise, if not a shock, when he got married going for 13 years ago. For those of us who remained single it was a bit of a wake-up call. If Dave can get married what does it mean for us…?
He moved away, to Byron Bay initially, then to Mullumbimby, where he lives now, had twins by his first wife, divorced, then re-married about 2 1/2 years ago (I was there and reported on it), and has had another child with her. I hardly ever see him, and don’t speak to him much as he’s a bit of a Luddite – no mobile phone of his own, and an email account he only looks in on sporadically.
Last time I saw Dave he was the same bone thin, dark-haired, slightly wild-looking character, to which he had added a thick black beard. Wednesday I met him coming in off the Skybus and that beard had turned grey. After we greeted each other I mentioned how biblical he looked, and he replied with a phrase that felt well used that he was “looking more like God now than Jesus.” True enough.
We went for lunch at the Savoy Hotel, across the road from Southern Cross station, and caught up with the things in between. I was honest and forthright with him, which is my new policy. He’s not a man who shows a lot, but he feels deeply. Dave is an innately compassionate man. At times in the past the depth and variety of things that concerned him would sometimes make of him a bit of a muddle. I shared many of his concerns. They were things we discussed over and again, but I was always more directed, more focussed, more efficient, if you will, in what I felt and how I expressed it. In many ways we must have seemed an odd couple.
Now, 2015, he was sitting across from me as I regaled him with my tale of woe. He listened with an expression on his face suggesting that he was processing information. He was shocked he said, to hear how bad things had become. He expressed concern then, and later, and when we parted offered me some cash, which I refused.
For me it was interesting telling him because it felt as if our universe had tilted at the very least, if not upturned altogether. I was always the clever, confident person, competent at life, when often he would fumble at it. No-one could ever expect this outcome for me – just the opposite in fact. Still, there it is. It was not fun telling him, but I said it without self-pity. These are facts, a reality. I told him I felt as if this was a challenge I had to overcome, like a salmon that must swim upstream. If I make it all will be good. He was inspired by that, he said.
We went onto another pub, where we had another beer. One of the reasons Dave ended up Byron Bay way was because of his health. He’s about my height, but always painfully thin. He admitted that it was something that had always embarrassed him, how people would look and exclaim at him. I never realised that. He is cadaverous, but I’ve never really known him any other way – I’d have about 25 kg’s on him now. He said how in another era he would not have survived into his thirties. He had a collapsed lung, and everything associated with it, in his mid twenties. All this I knew, and took in my stride, but what was shocking to me was his appearance.
Cadaverous people will generally look older because the skin is stretched so tightly over their frame. I imagine that’s one reason Dave has grown a beard. He’s always had long, dark, wavy hair, except now it is streaked with grey. He looks like someone from another place, not a sophisticated Melburnian, shorts and sandals, and wearing double t-shirts as I remember so well. He’s younger than me, but looks fully 15 years older, if not more.
We all have our challenges.
We parted at about 3pm. He suggested catching up again before he heads back in a couple of days time, but doubt that will happen. He was a blast from the past, reminder of another life, perhaps even a different incarnation. Much of our conversation was about that time, and the people we knew together then, most of them now gone. Nothing is forever.
He caught his train, I caught mine. He’ll worry about me, but I know I’ll be fine. I need other people to know that too.