After 35 years without seeing you or hearing from you – my best friend through high school, university, early work years, my best man – I came to see you give a public lecture a few weeks ago when you came to town. Somehow, our relationship all went wrong and you deserted me without a word. My life has changed. I thought I might try again.I watched you deliver your very accomplished lecture, bringing together complex strands of international politics, social trends and economics, the audience eating out of your hands, hanging on every word, every clever phrase. Funny, you seem to have developed the delivery mannerisms of our old Physics teacher from Year 8, Martin Purslow, from Dookie Agricultural College, who we used to joke about. You were a great mimic of him. It seems the mimic stuck. But he was a great teacher, a worthy idol.
It took a lot for me to go to the lecture, having blocked thoughts of you out of my life, despite being kept in touch by a mutual friend. You’ve rejected a number of my attempts to contact you over the years. I made you godparent of my child, named him after you. Marvelled at your modern feminist, social relationship in Canada and England. Understood your left-wing democratic principles (always Habermas in those early days). Was secretly thrilled at your university progress in Europe.
But you never responded. I’ve speculated why many times. Was it the fact that I was lecturing in a business field, leading a conventional life of marriage and children, in a conservative city, out of the global mainstream? Perhaps you thought I didn’t measure up to you. Perhaps you just weren’t interested in what I did or thought any more.
I swore to myself I’d never again attempt to engage or be interested, despite our areas of interest moving towards each other over time. But this occasion, this topic, were too close to not try to revive this friendship, respect, love burning deep inside me, despite my rational head.
When I approached you at the end of the lecture, your eyes seemed to light up when you saw me. You hugged me like an old friend, surprised but happy, smiling that knowing smile. But you had to catch a plane. No time to start a long conversation. I asked for your email. You said ‘Google me’. (You didn’t ask for my email or other contact details…You didn’t attempt a final eye contact to acknowledge me as you left…)
Hoping against hope that I’d actually hear from you, I waited for a week. Then I sent a tentative email, trying to establish contact, providing some points of mutual interest, but not writing my life story (which I’d love to share).
I’ve waited two weeks now for a reply, but none has come. That’s an eternity in online comms. Of course you’re a busy professor, positions at 3 universities, books written and to write, keynote addresses to give, fans to encourage. Others said that you were always pretty self-centred, egotistical. But that’s often what is needed to succeed to the top in a profession. Our relationship had managed that for 15 years or more.
But it seems I remain left on the shelf, wanting, but not wanted or needed. I know what spurned love is, known it for 35 years. It really hurts, because I just have no idea why. Why did you desert me?
But it seems it’s not to be. Dear John, I’ll have to lock you away again it seems, to avoid the pain it causes me just to think of you, to read of you, let alone to actually see you, knowing that you don’t give a bugger about me, your absolute best friend all those years ago.