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March 16, 2012 - David Alexander
I am not a sentimental person. I don’t cry at weddings. I don’t gush over puppies or babies. I’m not one for long goodbyes.
In my book, sentimentality is the heart of nostalgia. It’s the engine that drives it. I’m not talking about nostalgia in the overused, MTV generation sense of the word. I mean it in the literal sense. In ancient Greek, the word translates as “the pain from an old wound.” It is somewhere you yearn to return. Somewhere you feel you belong.
I rarely get this way because I have always felt like an outcast, even in my own family really. In short, I never belonged anywhere to begin with. But in the summer of my twenty-first year, I felt ever so briefly like I did.
We were a motley bunch of misfits, an unlikely cadre if you have ever seen one.
There was Josh, a weasely smartass with a sharp wit and wry sense of humor. He was essentially a less pragmatic and more opinionated version of his younger sister Megan, with whom I was also friends. He never backed down in an argument, even when it was obvious that he was wrong and could boil even the most stoic philosopher’s blood. I always admired that.
He introduced me to Sara Jane, who would promptly become my girlfriend. She was an emotionally damaged nerd-at-heart who had a fiercely unique way of making the most chronically dour of sentiments seem light hearted. To this day I have never met anyone who could replicate the way she cusses.
The other Sara, Sara Cool, was an Aryan waif with a 1950s sensibility about morality and a dark side. She came off as if she thought the world revolves around her — even though she didn’t. For some reason, this tendency was well-meaning and oblivious enough that it was rarely annoying. Or maybe it just meshed well with the tapestry of everyone else’s idiosyncrasies.
We all had dark sides that floated just below the surface. In a sense, it was what held our group together — the glue that bound us to one another.
Then there was Audra, Sara’s plucky side-kick and often the voice of reason. Her father was a dentist and, hilariously enough, her last name is Fillar. She was a less judgmental, more socially progressive, even-handed version of Sara Cool. If Sara was Calvin, Audra was Hobbes.
Then of course there was me, a jaded and skeptical misanthrope who couldn’t wait to tell everyone why what they believed was wrong.
Through the spring and summer of that year, we all hung out together in different combinations almost every day. We would have cookouts at Sara Cool's place, play Frisbee in various parking lots downtown, drink beer, play cards or Scrabble at the café, watch old movies, listen to indie rock and have spirited debates on everything from religion to cartoons.
We have all since gone our separate ways. Moved to different states, got married, had kids what have you. It wasn’t that we stopped enjoying one another’s company. It was almost like a group equivalent of a summer fling. It ran its course.
As I walked to work this morning, the temperature creeping toward 75 degrees, I turned on Bright Eyes’ album “Letting off the Happiness”— one of a few albums I consider the soundtrack to that period of my life. Suddenly, a sense of what I can only describe as longing washed over me.
Even though I was nearly 450 miles from place where this stinging nostalgia originated, it offered me a grain of solace to think that maybe, somewhere, one of our rag-tag bunch of miscreants was listening to it too.
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