Notes on nostalgia

Last night, while fairly inebriated I stumbled upon someone I didn’t expect to see, Alex Pickard. I met Alex when I was 18 going on 19. I had met his brother Ben Pickard the previous year. The Pickards were a decent bunch. They made you believe that happiness and a good sense of humour were genetic. Not many have such a sweet disposition towards others. In Ben while these characteristics were there they seemed sullied by life. It was as if he’d had an awful experience that had marred the springtime of his youth. I could never put my finger on it, his smiles weren’t as genuine as they should have been, and his eyes seemed a little cold. He was the sort of person you never wanted to vex, because you feared what lay under the happy exterior.

Alex was different. There was nothing dark underneath the happy exterior. His joie de vivre was contagious. I can’t quite recall how we met but I can say that once we’d met he quickly became a part of the tapestry of my life.We weren’t best friends but I’d like to say that we shared a certain camaraderie. So when I saw Alex while under the influence my joy was palpable. The years fell away. Even as we held unto each other and jumped around in glee, my joy did not subside. The shear randomness of it was overwhelming. After the crazy celebration, we once-again exchanged numbers. No promises were made because I knew that I’d probably never use his number. You might ask why. Why I would not jump at the chance to reestablish contact with one of the fixtures from my last years as a teenager.

I suspect that everyone has an inkling of the answer. It’s one of those things that you learn as you get older. Here I go again, pretending that I have all the answers when I’m just as clueless as everyone else. I will probably never use that number because Alex no longer has a place in the tapestry. Things have changed. He’ll always be a fond memory. If I ever bump into him I’ll be sure to engage in a brief exchange about both our lives. It never serves to be backward thinking. I always assumed that my years at Cheltenham with Alex and the rest of the lads would be the best years of my life. So when I left I was in a little bit of an identity crisis. I set my time there on a pedestal and refused to let anything come close to it. To me those were my golden years. I would have been perfectly content to go to university without ever speaking to anyone new. I would have been satisfied to maintain the relationships I had formed there in their entirety. My fondness for the time made me incapable of adapting to the changes that leaving Cheltenham brought. It was like trying to hold syrup with my palms spread open. Aided by distance and the thousands of people we met in time spent apart from each other the thick gooey years trickled out of my hands. In my desperation to keep the bonds formed intact I constructed an equally porous net below my palms.

I can’t tell you the exact moment I realised that my attempts to fight the change were futile. It was never my place to try to obstruct the tides of life. I was only ever meant to go with the flow. Reaching back in time to pull Alex to the fore front of my current life would be doing the opposite of what I was supposed to be doing. It’s the same with every treasured memory. Why bring it to the present when you can leave it the way it is? As a memory you can visit and revisit it. You can play around with it and wonder about this and that. You can block out the awful and preserve the good, but it’s funny how after enough time even the awful becomes good. It was enough that in the seconds that I clung to Alex Pickard and jumped in circles I was allowed a brief excursion to Cheltenham. It was enough that I went back to the way it was or the way that it had been for me. It was enough that for a few moments I was back there, laughing in the common room with the boys.

Happy Days,

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