So there's this guy, see, who works with Matt. And he's fun and interesting and articulate, so when a few of us went out to play pool and drink pints the other night, he came along and we were all happy about that. Then, in a surprizing development that would have been ho-hum de rigeur a mere few years ago when we were young and wild and owned a nightclub so everyone wanted to give us drugs, we ended up hosting a wee after-hours party.
Considering my more recent habits of nearly complete isolation and hermit-like behavior involving sitting at home for days with the shades drawn, listening to Dead Can Dance, nose firmly wedged inside a book (sometimes for pay!), this was pretty exciting stuff.
We got to our house, but all the other kids except this guy and me needed to forage for cigarettes, so they all took off again into the unpopulated night of a Cape Cod winter looking for a 24-hour store, while he and I stayed home, put on some music, and got a head start on the beer.
So I gave him the tour of the house (short walk, the whole place probably fits in my car... trunk) and told him the whole story, then I elaborated that I had grown up just a couple of miles away, in the next village over. He said no way, me too!
I said Church Street and he said no way me too!
So we started jumping up and down and trying to remember if we remembered each other, which was unlikely considering he was about 7 at the time and I was about 14, which meant I spent all my time in my room with the shades drawn listening to Duran Duran and re-reading Little Women for the 57 millionth time. So I didn't get out much. plus ca change...
But he made me happy by telling me a great story about the time his brother beat up the neighborhood bully, and then he rhapsodized about the singular awesomeness of the sledding hill that was on my great grandfather's property, and we both remembered the maneuver necessary for avoiding a face full of bramble at the bottom of the hill (cross arms over chest at last minute, lie down perfectly flat, cover face with hands, wait for someone to come pull you out by your shoulders; bailing out before hitting the brambles was unthinkable, and would result in certain banishment and unlimited indian burns).
Even better, it came out that his dad was the first one on the scene when our barn burned down one icy snowy January (it was later ruled arson -- there had been a spate of arson in town that winter). My mother and I were out of the house at the time, but my brothers were home, watching cartoons (Tom and Jerry, double header from 3-4 every afternoon). Apparently the dogs (we had five Newfoundlands) were barking their heads off in the back yard, but my brothers were riveted to the always fresh and hilarious antics of animated cat and mouse, so they were ignoring this.
This guy's dad tells the story the exact same way. Barn ablaze (lots of accelerant was used, so it was quite the fireball), dogs going nuts, no humans in sight, ice and snow. He knocks on the front door, which is then opened by a sullen kid. He even notices it's Tom and Jerry on the tube. The dad says "You know your barn's on fire?" Brother says "Oh. Thanks." And shuts the door on the guy's face.
Somehow the fire department finally got the call (unless it was time for commercials, I seriously doubt the call came from our house), and by the time my mom and I got home there was nothing left of the barn. The house, my brothers -- and the dogs -- were all untouched.
And there's this guy, standing in my living room, telling me this story of my childhood (an old chestnut at family gatherings, you can be sure), and it's identical in detail. Finally the cigamachoochoo hunters returned to start the party, and we're freaking out laughing, and try to tell them how crazy all this is.
Everyone else is singularly unimpressed. They're all like, eh...small town. But I love knowing that somebody else was there, someone outside the family, there was a witness to at least this one strange episode in my childhood. I'm really not making this stuff up.