WHAT do you say to an old acquaintance? Inspired by Meld columnist Marcella Purnama’s story of being “dumped”, Leon Saw has a very different tale of his own to tell.
So I’m at the bookstore in my own little universe, when out of nowhere I get whacked across the back.
I turn around and there’s this dude eyeballing me, looking very pleased with himself. I’m thinking, “That’s a good start. At least I’m not off my rocker yet. Someone’s actually there.” But then he goes on to greet me and ask how I am. And I realize, I’m supposed to know who this person standing in front of me is.
Except I had absolutely no clue. I mean, he looked familiar, but I just couldn’t remember his name or how I knew him.
After exchanging a few more stilted pleasantries, it dawned on me that this person did a couple of uni classes with me some time back, but sort of vanished without a trace after his significant other resurfaced.
You come across these people once in a while – friends who’ve become more strangers than friends, for whatever reason.
When you see them again, both of you engage in the ritual of affirming your own continued wellbeing to each other, and hopefully at least still remember some basic details about the person, unlike me. Then you make some inane comment should the circumstance allow it, before everything just degenerates into an awkward silence and one of you initiates a hasty getaway… until the next time you chance upon each other again and pretend to give a crap about it.
It’s almost like at any (Australian) supermarket check out counter where before scanning your groceries, the cashier (and unless you’re blind or illiterate, you’ll definitely catch his or her name because it’s written on the nametag that he or she is wearing) asks, “How are you?” and we all know there’s really only one correct answer – “Good, thank you Peter/Jane/Trainee).” because it would just be impolite to say anything else – the only difference is that the awkward silence is replaced with a constant beeping noise as the barcodes go by.
Should you decide to be clever and burden poor Peter/Jane/Trainee with your petty, self absorbed ramblings about a life that isn’t fair, a buzzer will sound. This is closely followed by an automated announcement politely stating that your answer is incorrect and prompting you to the back of the queue to try again… or not. That’s just what I imagined would happen in my grocery store, if I ever get to own one.
Anyway, after a couple more minutes, my tortoise of a memory finally catches the hare napping and my mystery dude gets a name. And with that name, I bid him a hearty farewell, but not before arranging a later date in the not-so-distant future when we can recount how wonderful (even if it really isn’t) life has been and will be for both of us with more colour and verboseness, over a pint or two.