I met a much-loved old friend the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for years, and yet we got into the flow as if it were only yesterday. There were two decades of happenings that we’d missed — reduced to simple words and sentences — “married, divorced, children, became a doctor, lived in New York …”
There was a time each of those events would have been discussed endlessly, ruminated over and unpacked minutiae-by-minutiae, day-by-day.
But even without that, we both knew how it would have been for the other — the dreams fulfilled, the losses, the triumphs. And we didn’t skip a beat moving forward into the present, like two musicians playing in harmony.
It called to mind an article I was reading on the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can’t be created or destroyed. It can only transform from one form to another. And although our bodies die, we are powered by energy, which transforms rather than dissipates. So too with friendships. I think once we’ve made an important connection (soulmates) this can’t die, just change form. Which means that friends/couples who are together for any significant period of time don’t ever “break up”, they simply change the shape of their relationship.
I remember going to the rapids in Colorado and standing in awe watching the power of that water. As it cascaded down the mountain it hit rocks, and changed direction, or branched off into other rivulets. I thought then that my relationships have been like that. The water underneath is consistent and still, but always changing at the surface, into bubbles, frost, ice, turning to the left, the right, carrying a branch, or leaves, energy always moving.
If we look at partnerships this way, we transform from being friends, then lovers, then partners, then perhaps parents, and as we age friends again. If we break up we can be enemies, then friends — or never friends again, but still bonded by rage, and hate, and love, and sadness, and memories, like the ever-moving directions of the rapids.
The residue is still in the soul, just transformed from one energy form to another, but certainly never “over”. Forever bonded. Fused by experience, forged in the heat of love. Experiences like having a child or burying a parent together can never be extinguished.
Which is why old friends can vanish when we go in different directions or with altercations, but they never become “nothing” the way mere acquaintances might.
Intimacy continues to exist. Exes — be they friends or partners — are never “just somebody that I used to know”. We know them still. There is no forgetting.
And when our paths cross, for one brief moment in time, it’s as if no time has passed at all.