Archive for August, 2011

2011/08/18

Forgive Me, Conrad Aiken

by mdjb

Could I really not find the time to call her and meet up for a shot or two and a little conversation? What kind of fifty-year-old has more fun playing in the snow with a young drinking buddy than spending time with an attractive serious writer of a certain age? It did not even cross my mind at the time that there might be serious social consequences, but some people do not take lightly half-hearted appointments made in momentary enthusiasm. I had played at the game before to be sure, but it never amounted to much, and this time around I still felt like a neophyte. I was only in Denver for two days and the snow was deep, but in saying that now, I realize I am making excuses. I was too shy. Or too self-centered, too pseudo-something to think beyond my itinerary. She took me to task for that, and I well deserved it.
But it was the way she went about it that made me think either she or I, or both of us, were just a bit mad. She went through a week of being nice and responding in simple tones, and then one night in an explosive e-mail she brought me up short. Tried to make me feel guilty for having let her down, even after having told me she most likely would not have shown. “I’m really a shy person,” she had remarked at first, “And not good with people.” Her words that night, a week later, alerted me to the fact that she was good at many other things, putting social skills aside.
When we met in New York, for the first time in the flesh, not long afterwards, we both apologized for having erred in a new friendship. We met inches from the spot where Dylan Thomas supposedly drank himself into oblivion, and then choked on a bottle cap or some such fabled nonsense. I think old Dylan’s spirit was there with us that night. The two of us were expressing such writerly thoughts, sharing cigarettes and big city dreams. Too big for a place like Denver to contain. Mine remained dreams. I had lived most of my life in New York City, and opted to return to my casita in southern Mexico. Shortly after our meeting, she gave hers a shot, left Denver and returned to New York for a second go at life there. The last I heard, she was still working it, but not as satisfactorily as she had foreseen.
Occasionally, her name pops up or I come across some marvelous piece she’s written, and remember how I screwed up a potential friendship that could not be healed by some brief conversation, however brilliant, and a few shared smokes. We both have moved a fair distance from the locus of our original connection, but the one thing that stays strong in my mind when I do hear her name, the thing I recall with an uncustomary clarity is how white the city of Denver was on that weekend in November, like a tabula rasa, silent and secret.

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