Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Elusive Keyser Soze

It's been about ten days or so since Michael and I met for dinner. And as expected, it was a heartwarming event.

We met at the ferry at the old World Trade Center site (now called World Financial), and I must say, the sight of him shocked me. The pictures I have of him show a small blonde boy, yet on Aug. 18th, he was anything but. I almost looked right past him, in fact, for now he's a big, burly, tatooed, salt-and-pepper-haired construction guy, a man in every sense of the word, carrying massive responsibilities on big shoulders buttressed by thick skin.

He's in charge of one of those new towers at Ground Zero, leading 800 men and 14 supervisors hundreds of feet skyward in a project with staggering safety issues, pinpoint details and pure unadulterated weight.

But I wasn't thinking of that when I saw him, of course. I only saw my childhood best friend, and in that moment, my heart nearly stopped. For a long time, we just sat on the waterfront and held hands, trying in vain to catch up on over 35 years of separation, but mostly just looking at each other for hints of our childhood faces and souls.

Our faces have changed, of course, but within a relatively short amount of time, I was most definitely in the presence of Michael again, as it didn't take long for him to get me laughing.

Over the course of the evening (lasting nearly seven hours), there were countless moments where I was laughing so hard that my face actually ached, just as it did when I was a kid. All the mischief in Michael the boy was there and more in Mike the man, and like the Grinch who's suddenly so touched by the Whos in Whoville on Christmas morning, I felt my heart grow bigger and bigger inside my chest with each passing hour.

There was constant hugging and kissing and reminiscing and picture-reviewing, and before I knew it, nearly all the restaurant patrons were gone except for us, and it was time to leave.

Since then, I've emailed him a couple of times, suggesting get-togethers, as we had talked about various things to do in the future, but it's been almost a week now since my last email, and I haven't heard back. For some reason, I'm not surprised by this, as I know just how much tragedy and disappoitment Michael has suffered in his life, and that the two places he finds the most comfort are at his job and in the company of his daughter. Something tells me he might not want to venture beyond that, and instead leave our child friendship in the past, as a true and perfect thing, a sacred memory not to be toyed with.

So I'm not sure if we'll ever actually see one another again, but one thing I do know is this:

After such a difficult four years of my own, it's been wonderful to discover that such feelings of joy and love are in me, and that I still have so much love to give. I've learned that I haven't turned to stone after all, and far from being bitter, I've actually been able to transcend difficult days of physical pain, a discovery that somewhat shocks me. Love does indeed heal, and I want more of it in my life.

My own wounds have made me fearful of love, too, but when it comes to Michael, my love borders on something truly unique--even divine--and that has made love feel safe to me in a way it perhaps never has before. So whether or not I see him again isn't important, I suppose, although I hope I do.

I thought about him for a long while today, and couldn't help but think of Kevin Spacey in "The Usual Suspects." Towards the end of the film, his character, Verbal Kint, talks about the elusiveness of Keyser Soze, illustrating it with a puff of air into his fingertips, saying, "And like that (pouf)...he's gone."

Michael swept in like an angel of mercy, distracting me so completely from pain and bouts of withdrawal during some crucial weeks. I thought little of myself or my suffering during that whole time, feeling instead the bittersweet pain of grueling anticipation. I also saw the arc of life, my own life and his, and often found myself weeping, not out of sadness, but because of being moved by life itself, and by the bond we shared as children.

But he seems to have vanished just as swiftly, leaving me to feel like I'd been hit by lightning, or perhaps had a shock treatment, and now I'm not quite sure where I am. Luckily, I took a few quick photos that night, so proof does exist that it really did happen. But like Verbal Kint, I'm blowing a puff of air into my own fingertips, marvelling at his sudden elusiveness.

He's where he belongs, though, up in the clouds on the gazillionth floor. I can see his building clearly from across the river here, and I smile when I look at it. He brought love back into my life, and for this, I will forever be grateful to him. I only want him to be happy and healthy, whether we're in one another's life or not.

All this said, I do know that I will see him again one day, if not in this life, then maybe the next. I know him and he knows me in ways most human beings never get to experience. And the power of this reunion restores my faith in a power much greater than myself.

How could I be anything but grateful?

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