Seeing old friends – Part 2: Unexpected

Friend may be a lofty word.

I lived with T for a period of about 2 years, from 2010-2012. He was a strange mix of an intellectual, and a pseudo-intellectual. That didn’t make sense to me back then. Now it does.

The kid made no sense when I knew him. Like many people in my life, he gravitated towards iconoclasm to a detrimental extent, and yet seemed to do some things solely for the sake of impressing others – hard drinking and drug use, mainly. He was genuinely smart in many arenas, and seemed to have a freighting grasp on abstract reasoning – something I consider myself relatively good at. But that didn’t justify the stone cold arrogance he had. And at the same time, he faked a lot of the knowledge he claimed to have, and said some comically stupid shit with a whole lot of arrogance.

We lived together and came together in part because I could keep up with his level of indulgence. But we also had a whole hell of a lot of bong rip conversations, and I think I learned a lot from him. Not in those conversations per se, but in later reflections about those conversations – about to what extent our experience of reality is us putting together a whole hell of a lot with incomplete information. He touched a raw nerve of my intellectual insecurity frequently and resoundingly, and I didn’t then have the confidence to do anything about it.

T had issues. He would run away from people for reasons unknown and demand to be alone. A bunch of us went out one night, and he disappeared without a word. I ended up going home for something and I found him there, drinking and smoking alone, and when our eyes met they burned with hatred. He hadn’t wanted to be disturbed.

But the over all memory of this person, at least back then, wasn’t overly positive.

I met up with him in 2014, and clearly he was going through some things. He was over the moon to see me, and I imagined that when I left in 2012 with the majority of his social scene. That is the consequence of staying on for a PhD after a two year Master’s. But in that brief trip I managed to piss him off to the extent that he was happy to see me go, and I don’t think I cared.

I got a pretty random email him from once. Beyond that, radio silence, and the occasional rumors of his exploits from the gossip mill of mutual acquaintances.

This year, he reached out to me, wanting to meet up as he would be in town. I agreed. I don’t think I would turn anyone down. On Instagram, I asked him of I should prepare myself for a wild night and he said yes. Then he asked if I could score some weed (I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to anymore).

So we met up. And it wasn’t the same person I remembered.

Part of it, of course, is my being older and more experienced. I approached with an extended hand and saw in his face the same terror I have when someone comes to me expecting a hug I am not prepared for. As we sit with our beers it dawns on me that he has yet to really make eye contact, and I started to wonder if he may not be on the spectrum (more on this in part 3, if i ever get around to writing it).

He had calmed. He had calmed significantly. Life had, over the passing decade, handed him victories and defeats in equal measures, and he learned that he could not actually manage the life of excess that he was hoping to maintain. He got a dream job in academia, and got shitcanned from it too, in what the rumor mill of our mutual friends described as a ‘MeToo-ing’. He himself brought it up in a ‘I did nothing wrong’ anecdote, which I didn’t buy. But, perhaps as a disconnected result, he was now four years sober. Frankly, I doubt the two things are a coincidence.

But those fossils of the old person were still there. The guy who at once claimed to have cheered on 9/11 and firmly believed that it was an inside job by the US government now held the rainbow of right-wing adjacent beliefs – “What about the good things Trump did?”, “Really, the war was instigated by Ukraine and the US”, “The virus, and the lockdown, were the government testing the waters on their limits of power.” He interweaved those topics with talks of Marx, how modern academia is still too neo-liberal, and most alarmingly, he how sees himself as an ‘accelerationist’ – a person who thinks they should put their energy towards what will accelerate the downfall of society. He was under the impression that such actions would bring about the solar punk utopias Americans from the pacific north-west seem convinced will come. We talked about the overwhelmingly human cost that would take, and he seemed indifferent to it all – which was when I think I really struck down to the ‘asshole ‘prick’ (a word he used to describe himself) I remember from years ago.


Before meeting up with the old friend described above, I was talking to another friend on the phone. I told him I was going to meet up with that other guy, and then shared some anecdotes about the person in question. I told him, notably, about this guy’s being MeToo-ed out of an academic position.

“Jesus. Are you sure you want to meet up with this guy?” my friend asked.

It was a good question. We weren’t friends in the past not really. But time and necesity changed this for him. For me? Again, ‘friend’ is a lofty word. I don’t think this guy is a friend. Not like other people are. However that isn’t the point, as I pointed out to the person on that phone call:

“What would shunning him do to make the world a better place?”

At the end of the day, I am more confident in my ability to maybe move him to my beliefs than him move to mine.

But I won’t be seeing him often.

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