About a decade ago, I made contact with a few old school friends. Our reintroductions were friendly enough, although they were a bit perturbed by my sudden reappearance, as I had just as suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth after my GCSEs years earlier. Actually, I hadn’t: I had just moved schools, and none of us bothered to keep in touch.
Only one of them had any interest in meeting up though, helped by the fact he resided in north London and could reach us on the tube. So there we were: I invited him over for dinner one evening after work. Collecting him from the station, I drove him up to our little house on the hill. Twenty years had passed since we last spoke, but we managed to strike up conversation.
Ah yes, but then I think he slightly freaked out. I hadn’t really expected my wife to introduce herself to him, although — well, what did I expect, for she had prepared a delicious Turkish meal? It wasn’t going to be your typical mate’s night in. I realised I had some explaining to do, because I had not mentioned my new reality to him at all before we met. We survived the evening, but then we lost touch again completely.
I suspect that freak out reaction is shared by all who encounter me again after so many years have passed. Well what would I expect? The community I have moved amongst for the past quarter of a century doesn’t exactly enjoy a good press. I’m sure my old friends think I believe in some pretty wacky ideas.
The freak out is a bit disappointing though. I think of myself as a hospitable host, attending to my guests’ every need. I don’t preach or proselytise; if fact I flee that kind of thing. My faith is quiet and private, there in the background, informing certain aspects of my culture. Those who take the time to get to know us will gladly return for our company time and again.
But those I left behind years and years ago? Well, yes, I suppose I get it. I was an extremely timid character back then when they last encountered me. Someone like me taking up this misunderstood path would be the last thing they would expect. So I guess it’s okay to freak out. So freak out. But when you’ve calmed down, call me.