I recently had a drunken phone conversation with an old friend. He was kind enough to indulge me for quite a while (I wince at the thought of the cost of that bill, as he lives in California, and if my call log is correct, he listened to me ramble for the better part of two hours), and later was even kinder in his assessment that it was “a good way to spend a Thursday night.” Ah, artists and their tolerance for incoherence.

I’m fascinated lately by the resurgence of this friendship, actually. J was someone I knew fairly well at the ripe old age of 14, when we were young, angry, angst-ridden and full of the inky blackness in our souls which was the wellspring of incredibly maudlin poetry. Of course, at 14, we weren’t exactly experienced in the things that created anger, angst and inky blackness – but as all 14-year-olds do, we pretended to be experts, and spent hours on the phone, racking up our parents’ phone bills and sighing at each other about whatever we sighed about.

The past 14 (or 15) years took us on very different paths, and not surprisingly, we completely lost touch nearly ten years ago. So it’s a little weird now to be back in contact with him. I don’t know who he is now – what’s important to him, how it meshes with what’s important to me, where his political allegiances fall, how he feels about the Atlanta Braves, what he might say to PJ Harvey, if he even thinks about any of these things.

I’ve been fairly careful about evaluating my friendships over the past few years (having learned a lot from the demise of my friendship with another J, among others), and I’m a bit nervous, actually, about how this is going to play out. A few old friends from high school have attempted to get in touch again, and because I couldn’t determine what would pique their interest after 10 years, I let those sparks fizzle out quickly. And while I don’t understand entirely why J would choose now, after nearly 15 years, to reconnect (though it has something to do with the Smashing Pumpkins and a box of letters), I understand my reasons for hoping the connection is more than a one-off (and they have something to do with the New Orleans Saints and A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

I have this philosophy about life – which sounds rather pretentious. Anyway, people are always talking about how they don’t want to get hurt again, how they’ll protect themselves and be tough and cold and hard if that’s what it takes to make sure they don’t hurt anymore. But they end up getting hurt anyway, or losing out on wonderful opportunities with other people in this life. And I can’t see how it helps to protect yourself from being hurt when it’s inevitable. So I’m a little fearful here of several things – and one of those things is that perhaps I’m assuming too much.

But I’m not afraid of being hurt. At the very least, I could get a poem out of it.

Ah, poets and their penchant for exploiting even the simplest of human experiences.

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