Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Greta Garbo and the perils of looking back
In many ways life is like one great big Interail trip. You stop at exotic destinations, have soul searching conversations with complete strangers, take their email addresses and never talk to them again.
But I am different in that I take a little bit away from each conversation; I may forget some of their more annoying habits. The tendancy to go on about their pets or their collection of beer mats. I don't want to lose a certain expression, a connection or a joke shared. I'm like one of those infernal English explorers of the 19th century who wants to collect. I know the Elgin Marbles should go back to Athens but I find myself liking them too much.
So I find things that pass sad and poignant and I sometimes fail to consign the past to the lock box labelled 'history'.
I still remember a rainy day in an English city when I passed the river and saw a shock of hair in a red car and realized it was the woman I had spent almost a decade of my life with.
And more worrying than the realization of the long nights we had spent cooking together and drinking wine was fact my ex-wife had made off with the decent car and left me with a Renault.
They don't sell Renaults in the USA. The French may have been useful allies when it came to the small matter of winning independence but it seems their cars aren't worth importing.
But I'm so much evolved now, having embraced the American dream. Just remind me to make sure I have electric windows and central locking the next time I buy a shiny, new Chevvy. Windy windows just isn't so cool in the 21st century. But it does have indicator lights as opposed to arms that you can activate every time you need to turn.
Still there have been other girls and other cars back in the day; familiar faces coming over the bridge in their golden jalopies. But my stubborn pride has prevented me dialling a number on my cell phone and making the connection.
Generally women seem to be better at holding a grudge than guys. Just today I received an email from a former colleague who hadn't bothered to remove the "Happy Christmas" subject line. I may only hear from him once a year but he's reliable and there to update me on my old life; at least twice a year.
But women can make me start to feel odd and paranoid. A miscommunication in an email led a friend to de-Facebook me once for six months; it wasn't a clean and clinical de-Facebooking, either. She felt she had to obliquely attack me in at least three status updates first.
Then one sunny day she emailed me again out of the blue one day, saying she was under stress at the time.
We're cool now but she'll probably de-Facebook me again if she read this blog. I guess being de-Facebooked is one of the worst things that can happen to you a decade into the Millennium. Sure I've been de-followed on Twitter but that's not nearly as serious.
De-following isn't always permanent, but I have also had female friends who have done a Captain Oakes and never returned from the great white anonymity of the virtual Ross Ice Shelf.
I'd like to email them one day pointing out I'm a boorish guy whose circuits are of a most rudimentary nature, but I wish them well. it's just that I'm not wired up for the 21st Century. I might get by in a cave but, come to think of it, I'm not good with my hands.
Of course, pride gets in my way and I never do. I have a mental image of the estranged party withdrawing themselves from society like Garbo. But the reality is she's probably forgotten about me altogether, got on with her life and is at a much more interesting phase.
Looking back, to totally misquote Freud, is the mark of an emotional cripple. It's time to see if this wheelchair has a fourth gear.