"Let go, or be dragged."
I had not seen them in almost four years. They were taking a paseo after dining out on a Monday evening as a family. I was driving by when my double take almost pinched a nerve. The husband: donning a full beard. The wife: languid. Her body, like all 50-something women's bodies including mine, had shifted in the downward-outward direction. The daughter: unrecognizable. Not even in the same galaxy as the sprite I once knew. This daughter was making a bold statement about her individuality. She carried herself like an adult. Because she was. Is.
They didn’t see me. I didn’t stop.
I grieved the loss of their friendship after my divorce. They're smart, cool, funny, kind, interesting. The people who brought all the really great camping equipment. Anti-priggish. And yet … they took a side. Not mine. But graciously, over time. A slow fade versus, say, an amputation via machete. I know from both.
From this remove on that evening, the lacuna between my former friends and me, having been clearly delineated by the Divorced-Intact Continental Divide, felt less appreciable. To see them as the new people they'd become made me think that their former selves—the ones I knew and loved—were perhaps gone. These palimpsests were thus not the people I knew. Or lost. So therefore I lost a tiny bit less. Or so I rationalized to halt the familiar hotwire of pain that starts in my gut and sears its way up to the back of my eyes.
It worked. For up to 10 or 12 seconds. Until the peanut gallery that is my amygdala pointed out that the current iterations were no doubt Fully Integrated Improved Versions of their Former Selves.
With the emotional slap of that hard truth, I turned the steering wheel onto Third Street ... watching all versions of them swerve out of the rearview.
Just like that.
*The sound of letting go.