Brand New Day – Week 15 – You Don’t Look Back

I was sitting at an old friend’s house. She (let’s call her Claire), like a lot of other friends, moved abroad last year, but she stopped by for the holidays to see family and friends.

So I was glad to get an invite from her; not to be dramatic, but via a bunch of different events, I lost nearly all of my social ties last year. I’m glad that very few of them were seriously bad breaks, but it’s still hard to have your entire social network disappear in the course of a few months. In a way, it’s easier to deal with someone who up and stops calling. Or someone who suddenly decides that they don’t want to hear from you anymore—at least at those times, you can be sure (if it’s true) that they’re the assholes in the situation. Having your best friends all move abroad though? Seeing a lot of them get engaged and move out of the state? Having some move across the country? Or into a new job that demands all of their time? And all at the same time while you try to break ground on an endeavor that requires you to be completely alone nearly all of the time? Somehow, it’s worse. You can text, you can meet them online, but that’s it.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. So, I’m sitting there, and I’m glad to be there. But it’s a surreal experience. Claire’s little sister is there, who had been a little kid the last time I’d seen her. But she was a teen now, complete with Uggs and a smart phone she never put down.

To boot, another of Claire’s friends was there. I introduced myself to her and Claire jumped in with, “Don’t you guys know each other?”

And then I realized we did. We’d met…

Back in 2002? Downstairs, in Claire’s basement, where we and other friends at the time were playing D&D. This friend (let’s call her… Megan?) came over for some reason, and for a reason that I didn’t understand at the time, Claire invited her in to watch us play D&D. Now, adding fuel to the obvious, raging awkwardness of the moment, Megan was (and still is) extremely attractive. So much so that my reaction at the time was to stop talking. No, people, I was not, in any way, a lady’s man. These days, I definitely get by, but I’d still be extremely uncomfortable starting a conversation with a beautiful woman who walks in during a D&D session. I’d like to think most people would be, because, hey, aside from being caught murdering someone, I’m not sure there’s less of a turnoff than being behind a 3.5 Player’s Handbook and a pile of dice when a woman first meets you.

But, hey, whatever, I thought. That was ages ago, and rightly so, because it was.

And that’s just the thing. It was ages ago. Everything is now.

More than any other time in my life, the past few months have been the most extreme hard reset I’ve ever experienced.

  • I’d say 80% of my best friends moved far enough away that I couldn’t just hop on a train and see them.
  • Of the remaining 20%, I’ve only been able to stay in touch with about 15% (that’s the thing about having exes you’re still attracted to as friends [especially at a time when you’re always depressed about being alone and every else has moved on]).
  • I lost my job because Borders went out of business. So not only did I lose all of the acquaintances and social interaction that came with that job, I lost a stable source of income I could’ve used to have new social interactions.
  • And every single chance at romance that I thought I had quietly went away.

So all that’s left me with are the occasional hangouts with the extremely amazing 15% of my close friends who are still left (I can’t thank you guys enough), and… me.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. Having this time alone has allowed me to take a serious, honest look at myself and my life—to change things that needed to change and figure out what I wanted from everything. And I’ve done so well enough that when Megan eventually brought up her engagement at Claire’s house, I smiled and congratulated her (perhaps moreso because a younger, shittier version of myself would’ve been jealous about it).

But it’s the only reward in a sea of silence and temperance. I had dinner with Claire, Megan, her mother and sister, and I smiled and listened to them talk about their lives, grateful that there weren’t questions about my own, aware the whole time that I’d be leaving soon to ride a bus back home—a trip I hadn’t made in years. Aware the entire time that everyone else was moving on and I wasn’t. Trying to reap confidence from the thought of the book, how well it was going, how I was still on schedule.

I gave Claire a goodbye huge around 9 PM. She had to get up early to catch a plane back to Florida. I don’t remember the exact farewell I gave her, but I remember walking away.

Away from the memory of the summer job where I’d met Claire. Of parties we’d gone to and experiences we’d shared as buddies with her other friends. Of my other friends, completely unrelated, and the days when I’d always had a set hangout day with them. Of old jobs and old acquaintances who were simply gone now. Of hands I would never hold again and the almost unfamiliar curve of long gone lips.

I didn’t look back. Because you don’t look back at things you know won’t ever return. You just walk on and try your best. Keep on the unfamiliar trail, no matter how difficult it is, and hope that you find something worthwhile at its end.

Published by

Louis Santiago

I'm a fantasy writer based in New York. One of my short stories, "Aixa the Hexcaster," was published at Mirror Dance Fantasy. You can read it here:

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