Today two dear friends of mine met, serendipitously. Or maybe not so much, even in a city of two point something million. I've known the two of them for two and half decades, as we were all at the same school together. One is the South African, as he is known on this blog, although that doesn't do him justice. Readers know he is a good husband and a fine cook, but he is also a man of the sea and his ribald jokes make me laugh, as he would say, bloody hard.
Last summer I got to visit with my friend Colin--Mir, his smart, fun wife had gone off to South America on a work summons of some importance, so I unfortunately missed her--and the adorable daughters he and Mir raise in the Beaches area of Toronto. Colin is a brilliant engineer turned patent agent who could also make Genius mixes for iTunes, if he weren't so cool. To him I owe my discovery of Elvis Costello, for which I can never adequately repay him.
As readers also know, in 1991 I traveled with my then-husband in a 1971 VW bus to Halifax for a wedding. Along with the South African and his good wife, we also met their friend Bob. He had spent a number of years in the Caribbean on his boat, and espoused the compelling notion that the number of keys one walks around with is inversely proportionate to his freedom. Bob spent a good many years with a key to his boat and nothing else--not to an apartment, a storage space, or even a girlfriend's flat. A lot of men admired him for that, but then in his mid-forties he settled down with a nice woman. It's been a long while since I've seen him, as I recall being heavily pregnant with my first child, who will be fourteen soon.
At any rate, Colin knows Bob but has never met the South African. Okay, SA's name is Hugh ("Hugh. Your Hugh," Colin wrote) and that they've been sailing from the same damn place from who knows how long is further proof that men don't talk to one another enough.
So now two of my favorite people have made a connection perhaps because of me, but in spite of my absence. It makes me think of that movie Sliding Doors, where we learn Gweneth Paltrow could make a completely different life from the one she's living by virtue of taking a different train on the tube in London. Had I not met a boy from Arkansas in a fountain in Brindisi, Italy, I might be living in Toronto instead of Texas. I'd be married to some rugby player named Graham or Angus (Queen's University in Kingston was, in my day and probably still so, a kilt-wearing, bagpipe stronghold) and would have given at least one fine party where Colin and Hugh might have hunkered down in a corner with their respective pints to discuss intricate knots or wind currents or whatever else elicits my inevitable technicolor yawn off the side of nearly every boat I've had the misfortune of boarding.
Those thoughts of what I might have become if I hadn't held hands with that redneck and then jumped off a cliff in Corfu can be seductive in my weak moments. But then I wouldn't have nine months a year where I can properly run outside. Or Austin, three hours away, as I know it and hope to know it better in the future. Or procured the DNA that gave me the people who make my life happy and worthwhile and have given me the pleasure of watching them grow up as native Texans. But as my countryman Gord Lightfoot sang, the circle is small. Hope I get to have a pint with Colin, Hugh and their wives when I head north again. They are among my happily married and cherished friends. So glad they've met.
Correction: Upon a better reading of Colin's email (meaning not on my Blackberry minus my glasses) it seems that it was Colin's skipper and not Colin himself who knew Bob. Another degree of separation doesn't diminish the fun of the story for me, but maybe for readers. Also, I think The Circle is Small is about adultery, so perhaps not the best title. At least Gord is Canadian...