28 April 2008

Something Beginning with S...

Earlier this week my friend S. informed me that he had started keeping a blog.  By complete coincidence, he is also using blogger.com.  How nice to be connected without knowing it! Anyway, I went and had a look at his, and I was surprised.  I wasn't surprised by what it said or how it sounded compared to the person I know - it sounded exactly like the him I know - but I was surprised by how breezy and contented it sounded.  He was observant, thoughtful, and engaged with the world around him, but his tone managed to be relaxed and unconcerned even while he was so.  Very different from my tone here, which seems to be serious and dolorous, even though I don't think of myself like that at all.

For some reason, reading his blog and thinking about him, and the way I am with him, made me decide to devote an entry to him.  I think about S. quite a lot, as it happens, at least once a day. This is certainly because we've been friends for a long time (nearly 20 years), but I also think it has to do with the fact that he's truly like no one else I know.  The funny thing is, I couldn't really tell you how.  I once tried to figure out what I would miss about him if I stopped being his friend, what specific attributes made him irreplaceable (which he certainly is), and I couldn't do it.  In the end, it became clear that it was just his "S-ness"; his ness is irreplaceable. Which is a way, I suppose, of saying, All of him.

So this is the story that I always tell when I tell about my friendship with him.  If he's reading this, he knows exactly what story I'm going to tell.  But it's quite a good story, anyway.

When I first met S., he was in his final year at University, and I was doing my junior year abroad at that University.  In the spring, therefore, he had to take his third-year exams, in his case in Drama and English (at least, I think it was English).  I helped him study (this meant, among other things, that I read every play Arthur Miller ever wrote, so S. is to blame for part of my freakish over-reading).  He studied EVERYTHING. I just remember a whole run of nights where he would study and study, and I was reading all this stuff so that I could be helpful if he needed it (I should say at this stage that if you were a student abroad you didn't get all that much coursework, and I'm a very fast reader, too).  

Then, maybe the day before the exam, he had one of those little anxiety attacks that you have right before a very important exam, where you think, Ha-ha!  I have studied everything.  And then a little voice says, Wait, what if I haven't?  What if there's some secret question that I haven't thought to study, and that's the very question they ask?  We were sitting at a refectory table, and he said to me, "What if they ask me a question I don't know the answer to?"  I responded, "S., you have studied so much that any question they ask you will seem like child's play."  And he said, "Yes, that's right.  They'll bring me the list of questions, and I'll read it, and then I'll say, 'But these questions are jejune!  Bring me some others!'"

18 years later, that remark still makes me laugh.  And when you add to that the fact that for the Drama portion of his exams he made, from scratch, by hand, a pair of puppets in the shape of frogs (don't ask...), and those puppets were not floppy half-assed frog versions, but scrupulously accurate renditions of frogs, beautifully sewn, you can perhaps see why this person would be irreplaceable.

So this entry ends with me saying, Huzzah! for S., who, by the way, has a lovely wife and charming son, and all in all has made a raging success of his life.  So, Huzzah! and, Well done!

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