Sunday, January 17, 2016

When Time Doesn't Matter

Image Description: A photograph of Joe, in a white shirt, and Gavin, in a plaid shirt, sitting in a restaurant with Joe's arm over Gavin's shoulder and his hand resting on Gavin's shoulder.

During the time of the plague, we watched friend after friend disappear. There were so many holes in the fabric of our lives that it seemed every day was shrouded in lace. Funerals happened daily and the list of the dead grew. AIDS rampaged, unfettered, through my community. It is the reason that Joe and I eventually moved from Toronto to the Eastern Townships of Quebec. We couldn't bear it any more. Gavin, a good friend of ours, left at around the same time, his parents needed him back home and at that moment leaving Toronto was leaving behind memories and a world populated by missing people.

We kept in touch with Gavin for a couple of years and then, suddenly, nothing. We had no idea what happened to him, where he had gone, or if he was still alive. While we always hoped that he was living out a happy life, we were more inclined to believe that he was gone.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, we recieved an email. I stared at the name for a few minutes before opening it. I wondered at the coincidence. But it happened before, there is a wonderful man from Scotland who bears the same name as a friend, a wonderful talented musician, lost to AIDS, in Vancouver. When I first recieved an email from Jim in Scotland, I sat at my computer with tears running down my face. Just seeing the name, just remembering the days when I'd get emails from that name, from my friend...

But seeing Gavin's name was different. I didn't know what had happened to him. I opened the email to find a delightful letter from Gavin telling us that he was traveling through to Quebec and would like to stop in Toronto and catch up. I wrote back immediately, so happy to have heard from him. Thirty years of silence suddenly seemed insignificant, but the time in waiting for him to come to Toronto seemed long. We arranged lunch at our local pub.

As life would have it, I was unable to go to lunch. I had things on at work that I simply couldn't rearrange, so we set it such that Joe would meet Gavin and I would call in and join the conversation for just a little bit.

I called, just after they ordered, and Joe answered, we spoke briefly and then he passed me over to Gavin. He sounded the same! I remembered his voice exactly, we chatted like we once did. And sometimes, with old friends, it seems like no time has passed ... this was one of those times. It was like we'd been chatting on phones for the last 30 years.

We fell into talking about the old days, the dark days, and all the memories we had. I was surprised to be laughing so much. It was like, as Gavin talked about some of those times that I remembered, maybe for the first time in a long time, that there had been sunny days, that we had laughed, that we'd gotten drunk and done silly things. Gavin too talked about walking the Church Street strip and seeing what was what. The old bar we used to drink at, the three of us, is gone now ... but other's remain. He spoke of his memories and I mine. And then it was time to hang up. I still had a couple of meetings I needed to get to ... and I did. But before I hung up I insisted, with emphasis, that a picture be taken of Joe and Gavin together. As you have seen, it was done.

Gavin's back on the road now, heading home. We've vowed to keep in touch, again, and that the next time, I'd be there too.

And, God Willing, I will be.


Liz McLennan said...

These are some of my favourite friendships - when years can pass between contact, but when we finally do re-emerge in each other's spheres, time just disappears.

A lovely Sunday morning post!

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how you can not hear or see someone for ages, and fall right back into the wonderful pattern of your friendship. I'm glad this story had a nice ending.