Until I was four, my best friend’s name was Ian McDonald and he lived across the street from me. We spent most days in and out of each others’ back yards, pretending to be private detectives. He was pretty much willing to believe the things that I told him were true (the playhouse is our office; your little brother’s office can be the plum tree; run, we’re being chased by communists) and this made him a valuable friend.
When I was almost five, I started kindergarten and discovered girls. Ian and I hung on for a few more years, but eventually our detective business was supplanted by games of Rainbow Brite and the many, many pink plastic toys which the other girls owned. The day my big sister bought me my first Barbie doll (Peaches’n’Cream Barbie) was pretty much the day Ian and I broke up for good.
Although we went to the same high school, I never saw him around and wasn’t really aware of him. We were both nerds, but I was a nerd with a lot of friends, which is a different and easier level of nerdery than his own. Every year I would see him at the neighborhood Christmas Eve party and he would mention the many boys constantly coming and going from my house, and in a roundabout, friendly Ian way he would imply I was a tramp. It was always nice to talk to him. After a while he went off to Oberlin and then I went off to Santa Cruz. Periodically I would see him when we were both home for weekends, and I would imagine going over and knocking on the door and inviting him out for some coffee or for a rousing game of Kill the Communist Dogs, but I never did it.
Later, Ian graduated and moved to South America to do something humanitarian, and I dropped out and moved to Seattle to do something corporate. We saw each other less, but when we did, I would consider asking him about his travels or his humanity or if he wanted to take a walk down to the sewer creek and play Tarzan on the vines again, but I never did it.
This weekend, Ian’s mom sold the house and moved away. I think there is a lesson in this, but damn if I know what.