Have you ever thought about all the people you have met in your life? And then realised there are loads whom you used to know but don’t anymore?
It could be for a host of reasons like leaving school, leaving college, leaving home well, leaving anywhere basically, both you and them.
Then there are the people in your life who you mean to contact but just don’t because you get distracted, too busy with work, too busy with children; just too busy.
Or you just drift apart because they have/have not got children, their children are older/younger or not at the same school, and the things that once drew you together now seem all but invisible.
I remember Rob.
When we left college we all exchanged addresses and stuff and then went our separate ways. It was not as if Rob and I had been best buddies at college but we did share a lot, if for no other reason that he came after me alphabetically and we were lab mates for botany and animal husbandry lectures.
I don’t know how it came about but he came to stay the night in my flat in London a few months after we left college in 1986 and as he was leaving, going down the cold stone-like communal stairs he paused holding the black metal bannister and looked back up at me.
I can see him now, in my mind’s eye as I sit here in my sunlit office .
So long ago.
There he is in his big baggy grey ribbed jumper coming down almost to his thighs, scruffy well-worn old jeans and white trainers. His blonde hair tousled like it always was at college, too long a fringe always getting in the way. His face brown from working in the sun, freckled. This country boy full of health and vitality is slightly lost in the big bad city. The city I am adapting to with far too much ease. Long gone are my old jeans and boatmen jumpers. I wear wine coloured nipped-in- tailored suits with cream silk shirts, sheer stockings and black court shoes. My hair is practically neat, my make-up demure and discreet. I am a long way from Devon and Seale Hayne Agricultural College.
He pauses on the half landing and looks up at me and says: “Have a nice life.”
And everything coalesces in that moment and I know it is the point between what has gone before and what has yet to come – the rest of my life.
But I dismiss it; possibly not wanting what he didn’t say to be true.
The subtext of his goodbye was that we would never see each other again.
He was right.
But I say it now; I have never forgotten that moment and I will never forget Rob.
I can’t see us meeting again. I don’t know where Rob lives or what he is doing. But for your information Rob, if you are out there, I am having a very nice life indeed.
And I hope with all my heart that you are too.