An ode to Ian

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The other night I dreamt of Ian.   That in and of itself is not so unusual.  I mean,  my friends often make guest appearances in my dreams.   But, no matter how surreal or nonsensical the dream in which Ian appears, it is never more perplexing  or mysterious than what happened to our friendship.

Ian and I met about 18 years ago.  We were both hired around the same time at this very esteemed, but very dysfunctional survey research company.  We were hired as part of an effort to bring some younger blood into the company and to help bring it kicking and screaming into the computer age.  There was a big divide between the old timers who smelled of stale booze and cigarettes and the new kids who were so excited to be working for such a well respected company.   I was given a shiny new annex to manage, away from all the typewriters and lunchtime drinking binges of the main office. And while I was free to hire  all new  interviewers, I had to inherit a bunch of the old timer supervisors who relished questioning my every decision.  “…that’s not how Bob would do it” they would whine.  I was always tempted to reply “No, probably not, but then again I’m not a bitter alcoholic abusive old queen with a taste for rough trade, am I?”

And then there was Ian.  Ian was my freakin’ lifeline there.  Ian was smart, good looking, and like me, younger than the old school supervisors by a  least a decade or so.   He wasn’t afraid of computers, and respected what I was trying to do there (I had come from an academic and public health background in survey research, and I was trying to bring the same kind of rigorous methodology to this company’s political  polling and market research).   As we got to know each we would spend more and more time in my office talking and laughing.  Mostly laughing.  Even though he was born in the US, his parents had only just imigrated from England, so Ian had a very British sense of humor, which I adored.   He had also inherited the British reserve, so while in the workplace we could bust a gut, he had very defined boundaries around his personal life.  I learned early on that the closeness we shared in the office did not translate outside the office walls.  I remember once we were chatting at the end of the day, and it was time to leave.  We continued talking as we gathered our things.  I figured we would at least walk to the BART (subway) station together.  But, as we hit the door, he clammed up, waved good-bye and then strode quickly away.  Odd bird, that Ian.

After less than a year with that company,  I quit to join my former boss in a smaller, younger company.  Ian left shortly after I did to go back to school in San Diego.   I figured that was the last I would ever see of him.  But, a year or so later, I get a letter from Ian  asking me if  I knew of  any job openings.  He wanted to come back up to the Bay Area.  I don’t remember if I actually had a position open, or if I just created one for him, but I was eager to rehire him on both a professional and personal level.  This time our friendship extended outside the office walls.  In addition to spending our days together in our shared office, we would hang out in the evening.

Now, in case you’re thinking, “hmmm sounds like a bit of a budding romance there”, trust me, it was only in my dreams.   Ian was a declared  “asexual”.  Sex, according to Ian,was nice, but it wasn’t worth all the nonsense that you had to endure to get it.  It was emotionally messy.   He had maybe one girlfriend his entire life.  And this was a good looking, smart, funny guy.  A catch, even.  Besides, I certainly wasn’t his type.  But, I was happy to be his friend.  He was perhaps my only good friend at the time.  He certainly was the person I spent the most time with.

Again, we both left this company around the same time.  Me, I left for a better position at a different company just a couple of blocks away. And  Ian left to finally pursue his ambitions to be a videographer. He had always been an excellent still photographer,  so he figured maybe he could be a news cameraman.  Via postcards, letters and email, Ian and I continued our friendship as he worked his way up in the local news markets – starting in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska, to eventually landing up in Dallas.  And while he was certainly successful professionally, he wasn’t happy.  He hated the politics and the petty ambitions of  local news.  He hated how he had to stifle his creativity.  He never really developed any friendships along the way, so he spent his free time alone reading, writing lengthy emails to me, and eventually, drinking.

I forget whether he left his last job in Dallas because he was fed up, or because he needed to go take care of his dying father.  I was always proud of him for being willing to go take care of his dad.   For years Ian had refused to take his father’s phone calls or cash the checks he sent.  All Ian wanted was an apology for the beatings his dad gave him, some kind of acknowledgment that it was wrong.  When that wasn’t forthcoming, Ian cut him off.  That was, until he got really sick.   I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, but he did the right thing.  After his father died, he and his sister split the proceeds from the sale of his father’s very nice house in San Diego that was sold near the top of the real estate market.  Ka-ching!

Ian then started traveling and living abroad.  Our correspondence became a bit more sporadic since it was now dependent on his access to an internet cafe.  But, he would share with me his truly incredible pictures.  During his trip to Thailand he met a girl.  And while he wasn’t effusive (at least to me) about the relationship, his rare emails were now peppered with the term “my girlfriend” and according to the last email I received from him, he was thinking of moving out to her home in the countryside to be with her – that is, if he wasn’t thrown out of the country due to the recent military coup.

Before he disappeared from my life, I tried to communicate with him via Gmail chat.  The first couple of times I saw him online we would exchange a few lines of conversation.  But, as he explained, he was on a dial-up connection at an internet cafe, so it was really slow and a bit frustrating to try and chat.  OK, no problem.  I didn’t take it personally.   After that, if I saw him online, I would drop a line  like “Just wanted to say hi.  Hope you’re well. ”  I didn’t expect, nor would I get a reply.

And then one evening, a couple of years ago, I saw him online and just said hello with nary an expectation of a chat.  He did respond this time, but in a way that hurt me deeply. Before my very eyes, his name disappeared from my Gmail chat menu.   In response to my “hey there”, he went in and changed his security settings so that his name would never appear in my Gmail chat menu.  What technology giveth in terms of ways of connecting, technology can also taketh away.  Ouch.

I desperately wanted to send an email and say “what the fuck, Ian?”, but my pride and my unwillingness to get hurt further got in the way.  I expected that eventually I would hear from him.  We had gone weeks between emails before. But no emails ever came.

I dreamt of Ian about a year ago and I dropped him a quick line to say hello, wish him well and to let him know I would love to hear from him.  No response.   I’ve since done some research online and it appears he is back in the States and living with his sister in Washington.  If I were truly motivated to get to the bottom of this, I could probably track him down.  But, it’s not like he could not have found me if he wanted to – my phone number and email address hasn’t changed in ages.  The other day I looked through our emails prior to the great silence to see if I could see any clues, and I just don’t see any. It’s a mystery.  For me, a sad mystery.

Damn, I miss that limey bastard.

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13 responses »

  1. I like your new blog look.

    For some reason it is screaming to me that you are definitely a vegetarian. If you displayed chocolate, you could get away with people not knowing which side of the food chain you favor. Only a vegetarian would display vegetables as a header. 🙂

    On a side note….about your blog post….maybe Ian will find your blog and drop you a line. He will probably have an alias like the rest of us. There is something intriguing about being disguised or a little bit invisible.

  2. I gather it isn’t the buddhist way to get angry…

    but it does sometimes help to blister someone up one side and down the other. Y’know,… just to get communication flowing again.

    Some people (particularly certain men sorts) seem incapable of actually expressing what’s bothering them. Avoidance was probably his easy way out,

    but it sucks.

  3. OK, after all your twittering I had to come see, and I LOVE the new look! I have a pic of fresh produce from Seattle that I like to put in rotation as my header so your really appeals to my eye 🙂

    As for Ian, I totally get it. How odd that he totally cut you off like that! I’d be aching with curiosity too. And missing his friendship of course. Stupid men! Never know how to deal with stuff. Maybe he cut you off while in Thailand due to the girlfriend being jealous and now cannot bring himself to contact you and admit to it? Sigh..I repeat..stupid men!

  4. don’t be surprised if at some point you hear from Ian and he is just as baffled by your absence as you are about his.

    i know some women that have access to their boyfriends’ passwords and email accounts. when they feel “threatened” they go through and delete information of women they think are “threats”.

    men do the same thing but i think that it is women, for the most part, that are likely to go through and “get rid” of their boyfriends’ old girlfriends and girl friends.

    it just doesn’t make sense for it to be anything else but what i am suggesting.

  5. What a very interesting little story. My guess is that it has something to do with the GF. Actually … hmmm. I was about to type something a little bit awful, and then I changed my mind, and now I’ve changed it back and I’m going to say it. The man you describe was pretty emotionally closed-off, and then he went to a country famous (at least anecdotally) for submissive, ingratiating women, and he found a girlfriend … my guess is that they probably didn’t have much in common, intellectually or culturally, and the comparative simplicity of the relationship appealed to him, obviously-repressed as he is.

    It’s been my experience that when men of that type engage in that kind of possibly misguided relationship, they become very threatened by reminders of what they might have missed out on, and what they should perhaps be doing instead. Although he may not have been attracted to you, you certainly do embody the smart, personally powerful archetype away from which he might deliberately have turned due to its being too much of a challenge for him.

    So … my guess is that the very idea of you holds up a mirror too painful for him to look in.

    That’s my long-distance analysis, and worth exactly what you paid for it. 🙂

  6. yep, I’m with the others – the ‘removing you from the gmail list’ was probably due to the girlfriend (who may have been a boyfriend – I’m just saying, that’s one thing Thailand is known for) and now he’s too crippled by shame to admit it.

    So, I say, get back in touch and tell him how you feel – without anger or blame. Just that you miss him in your life and would like to be in touch.

    You never know…

  7. oh know ~ you define nitely about layin on the blame girlfrien = that lill limey bass tard ! ! !

    there weirdest shit is that this kinda crap cumz outta no wear and it all ways hurts.

    just because yer a boo dist don’t mean he ainta phuqued up aze hole. fungi tho ~ a bit moldy from jungle however.

    hez a gonner imo ~ too bad tho since he lost a true friend = sadly the same cannot be sed 4 U

  8. BQ – you know how much I love red, so the choice of header had nothing to do with my culinary preferences (and if it did, it would a selection of cheeses), but rather with the vibrant colors. Chocolate, while much tastier than tomatoes, is much less photogenic.

    Amurin – I know plenty of angry Buddhists, and those who say they don’t get mad are either lying or far, far, farther along than I am. Unfortunately though, by giving me the silent treatment he is tapping into some really old and painful stuff with me that makes me question whether or not this is all my fault. And the problem is, I think he knows that. So, the truth is I am far more hurt than angry.

    tpgoddess013 – I really hadn’t considered the girlfriend angle until now, but it is certainly a possibility. That was the first time in the long history of our relationship that he did have a girlfriend, so you definitely could be onto something.

    Corina – if he had any curiosity about our mutual silence, he knows how to find me – even if his girlfriend erased all electronic traces of me. And since I’ve tried to contact him a couple of times at all of his email addresses, I’m thinking I’m pretty well dead to him.

    David – I’m glad you changed your mind. Don’t you ever edit yourself for my sake. And I appreciate having a male perspective on this. It’s an interesting (and flattering to me) theory. You’re right – he was pretty emotionally repressed.

    The other theory I’m floating is that he got deeper into his drinking, or lord knows what substances. One thing I’ve noticed is that sober people tend to make non-sober people uncomfortable. While I never nagged him about his drinking, I had challenged him about it and then let it go. I told him I’d always be there should he desire to quit, but other than that, it wasn’t a topic of conversation.

    Woo – since I have his sister’s address, I have been tempted to drop him a letter . . . but then again I hesitate b/c I feel like I would be perceived as a stalker. Did I mention the silent treatment plays tricks with my head?

    BBG – Sadly, I tend to agree with you – that he is a goner. All signs point in that direction.

    Monkees – if I knew where he was to kick his butt, this post wouldn’t have been necessary.

  9. Hi LB

    An interesting story.

    I have to say, Ian sounds a lot like me. Terribly repressed. An odd bird with some high walls around him. And someone with the unfortunate tendency to cut people out of his life on a regular basis. He has moved around a lot, that is clear. This he and I also have in common. I have no doubt there are many many people who wonder why I have not kept contact. When I left South Africa, for instance, I left a lot of people behind and never resumed any kind of relationship with them, even those whom I’d known well. I’m going to guess that Ian is a very changeable individual who had a very unstable background that involved lots of movement – perhaps different schools or countries or homes or cities.

    At the same time, I’ve also been on the other side – deeply hurt that someone has opted not to maintain contact, and completely bewildered by it.

    Actually, even after quite a bit of training in buddhist non-attachment, I’m still not immune to this. However, since I’ve found buddhism I’ve learnt to attach less to people, and also to detach less.

    I think you’ll find that Ian simply changed and felt that you were part of a past he no longer related to. Quite possibly, you were part of a past he wanted to forget. This has happened to me a lot, and was particularly the case after I emigrated from South Africa.

  10. Another to consider.

    A funny thing happens to some men on the death of their father. A sort of identity and life crisis arises and men are apt to change in fundamental ways. I completely reinvented myself after my father died and I really didn’t want to have anything to do with the life I’d led before that. My story was quite traumatic, but I think it’s not unlikely that is a quite a common phenomenon among men.

  11. eye wood put a fair amount on wait on that plausibility WJ ~ especially since their relationship was so strained and his proclivity to shut down communication adds up to a likely scene airo imo

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