Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dorian Gay

It has been a long twenty four hours. The debris from many relationships has found its way onto my doorstep and beyond. Not too long ago somebody working with a swish bank proferred a visiting card. The job designation (which then brought a smile to my face) read "Relationship Manager." I'm now begining to feel I need one of those. Let us begin at the begining. X and I have been friends for some time. We met in comic circumstances over the internet and agreed to connect in "real" life. "I'm the tall guy with the moustache" he informed me a few days before our meeting. In the intervening days he forgot about his description, shaved off his distinguishing feature and had me sizing up every moustached man at our designated meeting point. He came up bashful, apologised for the missing 'tache and (to quote Claude Rains in Casablanca) this was to be the begining of a beautiful friendship. Or was it ?
In retrospect what bound our (Platonic) relationship was books. X's job involved long spells in places so distance that I feared they had been forgotten by time, man and (sometimes) God. He would arrive, pick up a dozen books, return the last dozen he had borrowed and discuss them with me over lunch or dinner or good old potato juice. His work entailed a conservative appearance, short hair and nothing overtly gay. This somehow added to the charm of the situation. Eventually X acquired a lover and the three of us would meet from time to time over the years to discuss life, the universe and -invariably-books.
All of this changed when X announced he was quitting his job. I agreed. The constraints were begining to tell. He was terse, edgy and basically unhappy. We agreed that he needed to take some exams and head out of here. A dose of life in a foreign country would do him a world of good having survived years in the middle of nowhere. In the meanwhile he would move to the city, get himself a place and settle down with his lover for a few months. Ideal. Or so I thought. Having lived on the periphery of "civilisation" X now decided it was time for an Extreme Makeover - in every sense of the word. No subtle shifts here. We're talking tectonics. The hair grew to queeny proportions and acquired alarming hues. The mannerism became effete. And worse still, the crowd was now mainstream gay. The kind of people I have avoided because I share so little with them. My last vision of him was at a "G" party - hair down, embedded deep within a crowd of hysterical shrieking queens. I put my glass down within an hour of getting there and headed home. The quiet dinners, the literary banter, the camaraderie all became a distant past.
Until yesterday. An unknown number rang on my cell phone. It was X with a litany of grievances. "Why have you become so cold, so distant and so unresponsive to my many messages." I gulped. There was a nanosecond of doubt, before I decided on the Truth. "Can I be brutally honest?" "But you must." And so I embarked on my rendition of the events summarised above. "But did you really think I was like them?" he asked plaintively, voice aquiver. "Yes. After a point I did. You seemed so comfortable in there, it would be foolish to think anything else." "Why didn't you tell me?" This was a tough one. The truth is that I did feel uncomfortable telling him that I thought he'd sold out even though he deserved a break from his former life. In my oyster, we make choices and we bear the consequences. His oyster requires the caveat of an explanation. An emotional footnote if you like. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between. "Why didn't you call me, when I withdrew?" I asked. "Well after calling so many times, my sense of pride came in the way." Gulp. "P-R-I-D-E" he spelled, in case I hadn't heard.
In reflection late last night, I figured I live in a world where people don't really change. There is a dull comfort in relying on life's constants. Yes, people may change superficially but the kernel remains unaltered. So what happens when there is change? Are we entitled to re-form opinions we've held about people for so many years? Do we close our eyes and hope this is just a phase. Or do we move on ? I suppose the realist in me must answer that we acknowledge change and then rework our lives to fit it in. The romantic in me yearns for the other, older persona, the long lunches, the books, the debates and the flow of 'tato juice. At last reports, the head and the heart remain deeply conflicted.


Blogger Sin said...

In this particular case, I don't think there's any reason for the heart and the head to not be in direct conflict. Moving on is well and good, but not at the cost of sacrificing the better parts of you.

2:53 am  

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