Thursday, January 7, 2010

And ever onward flees

My friend Dani left Chapel Hill last week to study education in Charlotte. She invited friends to a going away party at Linda's for her last taste as a Chapel Hill resident. My girlfriend and I went early because I could not stay as late as the others. Ryan arrived, and we talked about chess clocks and Scrabble for a half hour. I drifted into memories of my other goodbyes while we waited for Dani.

I remembered wishing Holly good luck in front of He's Not and reading Wolfe's senior poem with Jesse at Carolina Coffee Shop. Jenna left me in the Park Place parking lot. I cannot remember saying goodbye to Sergio, but I do remember him coming back. I saw Anne in Chicago and barely missed her in Chapel Hill months later. I found Molly within sight of the West Virginia capitol building. I ate with Victor in Union Square in New York City.

But I lost touch with Greg and Clark, who both still live in Chapel Hill. I have not talked with Kim since her wedding years ago. Emily and I see each other occasionally but mostly talk about our careers. My friends are learning, working, marrying, moving and growing. We used to do most of these things together, but it is OK that we cannot anymore. What we share now is a place that we call home or used to call home. For me, the living room of that home is Linda's.

The place is good for goodbyes because it is not. We go to Linda's for specials, trivia and good music, but the main draw is our friends. People at Linda's talk. We go there to celebrate each other. The best place to say goodbye in Chapel Hill is this place where we normally say hello.

I felt strange walking out with Dani still in the bar. I did not see much of her in the last year, a year in which her life changed enough so that something, or perhaps someone, could pull her out of Chapel Hill. It's hard to see a friend like her go even when the going is a casual formality. Over the course of time, she and I lived our lives more and more apart but ever present in the mind of the other. I hope the other side of the red pen is as good to her as she will be to it.

To friends.
"The years will pass and very faint
Will be your call to these,

For time is scornful of the past

And ever onward flees.

But sometimes . . ."

~Thomas Wolfe, 1920

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