2023-03-15: echoes

i have social media, but i barely use it. every so often i scroll facebook a bit, see what people are up to. i post nothing, a ghost by preference: high school was an awful hell for several years, and as more and more people from that time sent me friend requests, i accepted them, and posted less. now i don't post anything at all.

but: i do dip in occasionally. enough to see names change, change back; marriage, divorce, pets and kids. carefully selected pictures of tropical trips. the slow process of our lives.

despite this there are lots of people i used to know who aren't on facebook, or they are, and we're not friends in that particular facebook sense. and so i wonder about them sometimes. i google them (as one does). name + city. the truth sometimes painful. you don't know till you hit enter. i hold my breath.

some are invisible. no documents, no stray emails, nothing on linkedin. i wonder if that's good. whether they simply decided to go dark. other times i learn things: an old friend, a big, redheaded guy with a toothy grin and a rumbling baritone, dead almost three years. an obituary, and reading between the lines, an overdose. the shock of that. the big man and his big smile. we used to play d&d together in high school. we had classes in common our first year of university. worked through assignments in the undergraduate labs.

thirty-nine and gone.

and then there are the times i do what one should not: search an old flame. not to contact — my entanglements pass through my life and are gone (no echoes; no second chances) — but to read about. the intervening years. the curiosity. whether the girl who took me by the hand that evening still has that sidelong glance. the obscene little smirk.

i didn't find out. i didn't find much and didn't dig deeper, just learned she never left the city. that she still does her music. a pdf online. a concert program, its list of names.

i'm happy she's doing well, devastated that my other friend, the one who shunned social media and tried to live a good life, never made it to forty. a reminder of the precarity of this. how the last few years have affected us. our families. a million different situations. different names for what we've become, for how we choose to deal with the loneliness, that ache and emptiness particular to each of us. what we do and who we let in. that line between thriving and dying: invisible, ever-present; palpable and impossibly thin.