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  • It’s becoming painful. Three days ago you got an email from an old college friend, a man you haven’t seen in over 40 years, saying he’d be passing through your town. He proposed getting together for dinner and you eagerly accepted. Now you’re listlessly pushing the remnants of your appetizer around the plate. It’s already become screamingly obvious that the two of you have nothing to say to one another.

    You try another conversational gambit, only to see it wither and die like the others.

    “Hell of a mess in Washington, huh?”

    “I don’t really follow politics.”

    He takes a long slug of his Budweiser. He says no one drinks Budweiser anymore, but he’ll stick with it come hell or high water, thank you. His chin juts out defiantly. It’s the most interesting thing he’s said all evening. You wonder if you’re boring him equally. Most likely.

    There was a time when you and he were like brothers. You took classes together, double-dated, cheered yourselves hoarse at football games. One frosty night, fueled by a few too many of the Budweisers he still favors, he poured his heart out to you, confessing his fears and doubts. You sat next to him on the grass as he sobbed, not quite sure what to do. You draped an arm over his shoulders and sat with him silently. The following day he was distant with you, even slightly hostile. You never recovered that closeness.

    The entrees arrive. He’s a steak lover (“Rare, please. I want to hear it moo.”) You’re a non-fussy vegetarian. He made a killing on Wall Street. You kept your hair. At this point you’re tempted to jab a fork into your leg, just to make sure you’re still alive. You surrender and allow yourself to wander down one of your least favorite places: Memory Lane.

    “Hey, whatever happened to –“

    He suddenly becomes more animated. The sentences start leap-frogging one another.

    “Poor son of a bitch has prostate –“

    “And what about – “

    “On his third wife and about to become a father again at his age. It’s –“

    “Remember that time in art history when –“

    He allows you to pick up the check. You solemnly swear not to let so much time pass before seeing each other again, but you both know it’s your final meeting this side of the grave.

    You drive home in a pensive mood. You’re not just dabbling with being in your 60s anymore; you’re committed. You still are friendly with some of the people you shared your youth, your idealism and your sorrow with. The only thing you have in common with the rest is history. And you think to yourself that, conventional wisdom aside, history isn’t always composed by the victors. Sometimes it’s written down by the sad and the indifferent alike.
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