Ah, the power of Facebook. One day recently, I received a mysterious Friend request. It had no details, just a name—one I didn’t recognize. Or did I? Something about it was vaguely familiar. Soon afterward, another request came in. This one said, “Could you possibly be the Larry Garland I knew back in my college days in Tennessee?”
Yes, I did know that name! This was the Pete I remembered and had tried unsuccessfully to find more than a decade ago; but, in my recollection, I knew only his nickname. Without recalling his actual name, which he’d never used at school, I had been unable to locate him. I had searched for Pete when the Internet was in its infancy. That was before search engines had become the supped-up, all-in-one reference resources they are today; and software for networking utilities like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Plaxo was still a dream—if even that.
Soon, I would learn that Pete had legally changed his name to his preferred moniker “Peter” shortly after college, as part of his becoming the person he pictured himself being. But, wait. I’m getting ahead of the story.
I added Pete as a friend, and we “rebooted” our dialogue after a three-decade hiatus. Many memories of our time together as college friends have been reviewed now. And, we have started to fill in the gap of that missing time. For instance, we’ve discovered that we both chose to leave the South; he went west and I went north. Our conversation is just beginning, but already I’m remembering things I’d forgotten—or buried. And, I’m finding out things about myself that I never knew—like how I was perceived then and how I’m perceived now, by Pete and (through deduction) perhaps by others.
However, we find that much data is missing and needs to be restored—events in our lives that happened during that interim in which the dialog was frozen. Thirty years of loves found and lost; thirty years of adventures in our lives; thirty years of dreams created, and then realized, abandoned, or still pending—these are the topics that will require careful attention to detail and nuance as we key it all into that ethereal mainframe that holds our joint memories. This extended metaphor works best for what has been, but what of the future?
Any decent story has a protagonist. And, there is no story unless there is action. Moreover, that action—the events that unfold through time—must show character development, which brings me back to the protagonist. Who would like, or even finish reading, a novel or short story in which what happens to the leading character has no effect on that person at the center of the story? Change must take place—not just around but in central characters. This transformation is a process that is in addition to, but also essential for, the plot. And so it is with Pete and me. I hope to be learning about today’s Pete; but, I also want to learn about today’s Larry. Who am I and how did I get here? And, what of tomorrow’s Pete, tomorrow’s Larry?
Pete says he’s impressed that I made it to New York. “The Larry I knew would never have even considered moving there,” he told me. He wants to learn what events in my life led me here: where I got the idea and then the courage to carry it through. I don’t have those answers right now. Like another Southerner, Scarlett O’Hara, once said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”