Sunday, 23 August 2009

"I'll move forward, and you'll move backwards, and somewhere we will meet"

I bumped into Jackie years after I had first met her. She had not changed much, despite the time that had spread itself between us, she was still short, slim with slight curves that hinted at a plumper past, eyes that were wide and inviting, and of course a cigarette in between the fingers of her right hand.

I had met Jackie at a bar after I had graduated college, she was with the younger crowd of newly admitted students, and there was no doubt that she imposed a presence.
Whether or not that was always a good thing, is a completely different subject.
Not to get me wrong, I didn't dislike Jackie. Au contraire. When I first met her, I found her bubbly, carefree nature admirable. Her surprising familiarity with subjects brought up by older more cultured acquaintances was intriguing. She seemed so sweet, with a smile that was instantly mirrored. It's safe to say the disillusionment didn't last very long.

The more I got to know her, the more her carefree nature turned into reckless exhibitionism, craving attention, banking on her charming package to push the brash euphemisms of her definition under the carpet. The more I got to know her, the more her knowledge of obscure, mature topics thinned out to become snippets of feigned interest for the sake of shock value. The more I got to know Jackie, the more her smile screamed fears of rejection, the need of affection, and the inability to break away from the gold framed self portrait she had prescribed to herself, for all to see. The more I got to know her, the more her drunken evenings became a manipulative tool in the winning of attentions.
She charmed nearly any guy who met her, after all she had looks on top of all the wild child attitude and subsequently, was on the bad side of many girls. But none of them could really act on their feelings, after all, how would you get around accusing sugar of being salt?

When I bumped into her those many years later, I was stepping out of the corner shop, headphones on my ears, drinking a smoothie out of a bottle. She was on her way in, and stopped suddenly. She smiled that very familiar smile, this time less able to hide a deep misery. She said "hey! Oh my god! I haven't seen you in ages!", and all I could hear was the same undertoned, self-muffled cry of help. Her face was less bright, and her eyes less lively. She asked what I was doing these days, and I told her I had set up a small home studio to do my writing and drawing in, and was about to send my first book to publishers. She chimed her awe, as she always did, thickly layered. I shrugged and told her it was just what had to be. "But what about you?" I asked.

"Oh! Well, you know, I graduated with a English Lit degree. Yea. Travelled around for a few years, you know. Saw some family in Europe, went to the States for a bit too. I'm not working at the moment, not sure what I want to do still, haha, a little late for that huh? Hahaha," her nervous laughter trailed slowly as we looked at each other silently for a second or two. I broke the silence by asking if she was with anyone, she replied that she had met her boyfriend a few months back at a concert. And he was a star in the making of course. He was younger than her, but who cared right? As long as he loved her and was there for her. I nodded and told her I guess that's what was important. I asked her who she was still in contact with from her group of friends, who I had known only briefly, except for a couple that had become close friends of mine.
"Oh that old group? None. Yea, shame I guess, but I think we had different interests and yea, well you know. Stuff. Whose still close to their college gang after graduation anyway? Right?" I smiled and laughed slightly, not wanting to tell her that nearly everyone of my good friends were friends I met at college, and their respective friends were, and so on so forth. I had predicted this of Jackie, whose nickname in the day was Jackie O, credit to her charisma and looks and "fame" amidst her peers.
I remember one night, after a particularly flamboyant evening in which she ended up barefoot, singing out loud, dancing on the street outside the bar at 3 am in the morning, how a friend of mine watched on, shaking her head. "She's crazy. She's just too much! How does this not piss you off?" I sighed and told her I foresee doom in her future in a deep voice, and she giggled at my impersonation. "Seriously though," I added, "this will end sometime. And I wonder what she'll have left... That's why I don't get too irritated. I actually feel sorry for her."
I'd had friends like her. The popular joie de vivre-ettes of my generation. Willing to try anything and do anything and all in a package sprinkled with sugar and spice.
They craved drama, they craved attention, they craved to be anyone but themselves, and yet were unwilling to change for reasons unbeknown to me. Who knows. Maybe it was pure comfort zone. Maybe some of them had actual prerogatives, but whatever the case, it was a long, winding, lonely road that finally lead them far from everyone else and far from their own true happiness.
"She's going to wake up once day, alone." I told my friend as I sipped my wine glass. "People are going to move forward, and she's not going to be able to catch up and grow up. She's like a really pretty flower. Lovely to look at, but you have to go on your way sooner or later, and if you pick it, it will just wilt. The life of the party is only ever needed at a party. And parties have to end sometime."

"So, I'll see you around sometime?" Jackie asked me, snapping me out of my recollection. "My boyfriend's friend has a cool hang out spot and he has all this alcohol. We can totally get tanked and party it up!"
I smiled at her, seeing her face light up. The warmth of escapism is an alluring one.
"I don't know, I have to finish off the illustrations for the book. Maybe.."
I was never good at hiding what I was thinking, and she understood me beautifully.
She took a last drag from her cigarette, smiled once again at me, then put it out with her foot before saying she'll keep an eye out for my book, and to take care.
I nodded in recognition, smiled, and wished her luck in whatever she wanted to do.

We both turned our backs to each other, walked our seperate ways, knowing that if we were to ever meet again, it would be by pure coincidence alone.


cardejah said...

wow. good one, karma.
it's really sad that I know a ton of people like that amongst my peers.
hmm :(

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