A few nights ago, I searched for old boyfriends on social media.
I found one from when I was 19. When I met him, he was a few years older than me, had just returned from Vietnam, and had his jaw wired shut as the result of a car accident. He was also my college roommate’s boyfriend. She told me to look him up when I visited his town. So I did.
I ended up telling my roommate what had happened, that perhaps I had overinterpreted her suggestion that I look him up. It was one of the most low-down things I’ve ever done – both messing around with her boyfriend and then telling her about it. Even though I’d only known her a year, she had been a true friend who had helped me through a very difficult time. Still, our friendship wasn’t strong enough to withstand a guy. That happened a lot then. It probably still does.
Because he has a public profile on Facebook, I was able to read his posts and see his face. I remembered him as thin with dark hair and eyes, very close-mouthed, not surprisingly. He was sarcastic and funny. He loved music. I heard Otis Redding the first time on his stereo.
We never fell in love. We just hung out. He tried to teach me to smoke marijuana but I was a drinker and didn’t get the point about pot. He got the point, though, and was almost constantly high. It made him mellow which I appreciated at the time because not much else in my life was. But the relationship went nowhere and, one day, another roommate of mine casually mentioned that she’d just gotten back from a motorcycle ride with him. So that was that.
He is an old man now. His hair is white and sparse but he still has a moustache and something of a beard. His Facebook posts make him seem still sarcastic and funny, self-deprecating, skeptical about the world. I gleaned that he had owned a bookstore for many years and was a published writer. He had been married a long time, lived in a house that required firewood, and had two sons who checked in on him during last winter’s polar vortex.
I considered messaging him. To just say, Hey, Hi, it’s Jan, remember me? And then tell him that I was kind of literary, too, married, successful, a pillar of the community. We could be two 70-somethings shaking our heads and rolling our eyes in different states, oh, weren’t we the interesting pair back then in the roaring sixties. But I didn’t. Of course, there was always the possibility that he wouldn’t remember, which would be mortifying and put me in the terrible position of trying to find something notable about myself that would jog his memory and, besides, maybe he has dementia, who can tell? So I scrolled on by.
It was too weird, all of it. I moved on to being preoccupied with the mind-blowing nature of the massive passage of time. Fifty-two years, that’s how much time has elapsed since I’d last seen this man’s face and, I have to say, I barely recognized him. Or myself, for that matter. It’s a trip.