The Real Thing
Last night I saw Donny at a house party near the beach. He was wearing an Armani sports jacket and loafers while the rest of us wore shorts and sandals. I thought his choice of apparel was interesting, because back when we lived together he didn’t even own a sports jacket or loafers.
He also brought two bottles of Cristal (really expensive champagne) to the party. It was the first time I’d ever seen Cristal – outside of hip-hop music videos. Actually, the closest I’d come to seeing it was on my first date with Angel several years ago. After a nice dinner, I ran to the liquor store, bought a bottle of Cristalino (a cheap sparkling wine), cut the ‘ino’ off the label, and tried to make her laugh.
“Inventive,” she said, “Just not too smooth.”
But this was the real thing. And several party goers circled around Donny hoping to grab a glass before it was gone. “Just like old times, man,” Sam said to me. “Donny is still the life of the party!”
Still So Crazy
After the two bottles were gone, and people were again drinking Keystone Light (a cheap beer), I stood on the patio with Donny, Sam, and Chad – my old college buddies.
“Do you remember that time when Donny got drunk and broke every lamp in our dorm?” Sam asked. “We spent three whole nights studying and eating by candlelight until he bought us those ugly Victorian lamps he found at a garage sale.”
Sam, Chad and I laughed at the recollection. Back then, it was normal for Donny to spontaneously smash little things (like beer cans and plastic cups) when he was drunk. But that night he went on a rampage. And we owned a set of gaudy Victorian lamps for the next two years to prove it.
Donny shook his head disapprovingly. “Come on guys, not in front of my girlfriend,” he said, directing us with his eyes to the girl on his arm. “I’ve moved on. Respect me for that.”
I looked at the girl gripping Donny’s arm. Though she’d been with him all night, I hadn’t really noticed her, and she hadn’t said a word. I looked at Donny and smiled, but I didn’t know what to say. Sam and Chad were smiling too, but they didn’t know what to say either. Luckily, Donny broke the awkward silence. “Why don’t I get another bottle of Cristal out of the car,” he said. “Ya know… for old times sake.”
“Yeah man, yeah!” Sam said. “You’re still so crazy!”
Nostalgia and Negation
When I got home last night I stayed up and thought about what happens to us as time passes. We change. And as we change, we grow and move toward new people and experiences, and we make decisions and judgments about the people and experiences that we move away from.
We typically either choose to engage and move closer (nostalgia), or we choose to disengage and move farther away (negation). Nostalgia isn’t good because we’re holding onto what’s no longer there. But negation isn’t good either because we’re pretending that what was once there never existed.
When we’re too close to something (nostalgia), we can’t see clearly. Sometimes we even see things that aren’t there at all. For example, Sam wanted to know Donny as he remembered him – a crazy party animal. But the bottles of Cristal didn’t make Donny crazy, they made him high-priced. Donny had long since stopped being the party animal we all knew in college.
When we’re too far away from something (negation), we can’t see it at all. And we begin to lose a part of ourselves that can be a source of great happiness, understanding and direction. For example, Donny had lots of good friends and experiences from his college years, and his girlfriend would have loved to share in them with him. I know this because she told me before I left the party last night.
Clarity comes, I think, in being able to recognize the perils of both nostalgia and negation. It’s simply about appreciating the past without trying to relive it, learning from the past without running away from it, and seeing people and experiences as they are in this moment – sometimes happy, sometimes sad, never perfect, always a one of a kind.
Photo by: Gonzalo Ar