One of the last times I saw Roger (not his real name), he was making out with his college marching band girlfriend somewhere toward the back on Bus Four, on our way from a performance at an away football game. And one of the last times I remember seeing Vivian (also not her name), she was singing at the top of her lungs, cracking jokes with seat mates on the same bus. For years we had become part of the same extended family, divergent siblings from all nooks and corners of a sprawling countryside campus, the music majors and soon to be pharmacists and would-be accountants and marketeers, among others, the odd assemblage and close knit group I would never have otherwise known, energizing and gleeful and all too incestuous — I am ever grateful for having been part of it all.
But after school, everyone marched off into their lives, and at some point, most of them were all gone. I’ve stayed off-grid, for years really, because of my jobs, one as a cop and then as a federal drug agent, and it wasn’t until maybe three years or so ago that I inserted myself back into the mainstream. Social media in the millennium beckoned a heartening return to the faces and names of yore, friends and acquaintances and bullies alike, from high school and college, now grownups with kid pics from the first day of school, all scattered, in different towns and states, in all states of life, divorced and married and still single, all grateful to reach out again in messages with classmates that before Facebook otherwise would have disappeared mysteriously altogether.
But invariably, especially now, communiqués devolve political. And I find now that of all the close and loose knit ties and passers-by in my life, my adoptive siblings, hookups, friends, teammates, cohorts and my college marching band family — half of them all loathsomely hate everything I say.
Life has worn and pulled us each in myriad ways, good luck and hard, and I’m left to wonder was college just a stream of fortuitous unicorn moments? The differences in us always were there — and that was exactly the magic to me. Now though, years past with the same people, somehow we’re all off-putting strangers with familiar names and faces.
In the span of two days, I’ve been asked how many blacks I beat down when was a cop (none, thanks for asking), and I’ve been dubbed a troll for calling out yet another viral Kaepernick / Nike meme as the work of a disruptive Russian spy-bot.
Did the world change? Did I? Or we? Somewhere we lost the knack for seeking common harbor and find ourselves defaulting strictly to different camps, with Facebook all too willing to oblige and sell off the results and boomerang more right back at us in treble. The latest memes we “share” and tear apart in someone else’s thread exist irrespective now of the realization someone on purpose planted it there, for us to catch whiff of and waft away, like a fart before doors to the elevator shut. And what’s left are wedges driven down, a little at a time, between us, the differences we once reveled in, now are the weak spots in our collective belly.