If you really love someone, let them go. If they don't return and you are certain they want to despite their crippling social anxiety, you are free to hunt them down after brunch one Sunday. It's in the small print somewhere.
I knock on Conor's door, as Melanie and I were in Cold Spring and I had to assume he still lived with his parents barring any information to the contrary. If he has trouble keeping in contact with me, I felt fairly sure he's yet to manage his own apartment somewhere far from the town he hates.
A mildly interested, midsized dog comes to the door first and obligingly growls, but in a way that suggests it really isn't terribly personal. I take a step back not because I have any fear of this animal - growling isn't enough to assure me that a dog doesn't like me - but because I had never known Conor to have a pet and think maybe his whole family moved without my knowing.
His father, Liam, then answers the door, wearing a t-shirt and aqua boxers. He shoos the dog back and asks us to come in and sit down, apologizing for the mess of the living room.
"I'll go upstairs and see if I can wake Conor," Liam assures me. Despite my expressed intention being to see Conor, I find it the best course of action to not actually believe that could happen. At best, I thought we might run into Conor's mother Elizabeth, who I have assured Melanie will nurture her within a second of meeting her. Elizabeth is an excellent mother, so much so that she cannot bear to contain her love to just her two biological children.
I sit on the sofa and hearken for Melanie to sit next to me while I try to translate my various feelings into comprehensible English, finally settling on, "You might actually see Conor. I don't expect this to happen very often."
Conor comes down the stairs a few minutes later, looking largely unchanged from the last time I saw him (which I believe to be for a few minutes at NonCon 2007) aside from his goatee being longer and his eyes sleepier. Other friends radically alter given only a few months separation, but Conor really commits to a moratorium, so much so that aging ceases in accordance with his behavior.
He sits in a chair roughly parallel to us and says, "Wow, hi. How long has it been?"
"...A year?" he asks and I see the movement of his eyes that signals he is trying to do the math of this in his head, hoping to figure out what has happened in the normal flow of time while he, like King Arthur, waited in a cave for the world to need him again.
"A bit over it, yes. What have you been up to?"
He tells of having his job for the last two years, hating it for the last seven months, of having no girlfriend since Olwyn in 2005 and spending a lot of time out of the world. In mention of girlfriends, I formally introduce Melanie and she chirps, "I'm the replacement!"
I shove her, though not enough to actually move her more than an inch. "You are no such thing," I scold. "You are very little like Emily."
Conor nods his head. "Oh, I am noticing that, even having known you a few minutes." While I am sure I could ask him his honest opinion of Melanie and he would give it in front of her, that he noticed she is not like my ex is enough for now.
"Well, if I were a rebound crush, I'd be the best ever."
Our time is short today, as he is due to leave for work soon, so I try to establish a way on contacting him again on his days off, more out of a sense of obligation than any true belief that it can be effective. "What if I send you a message on Facebook?"
He shakes his head. "No good, that is a communication device, so I avoid it."
"So how do I contact you?"
"I almost never answer my phone or respond to messages. Mostly, people contact me through Flynn, but you shouldn't do that. You should try my phone anyway and there is a small chance it will work."
We hug and part ways, not sure when I will manage to see him again. I understand outgrowing a friend. I am well on my way to completing my dissertation on outgrowing or being outgrown. I've come to a state of being nearly Zen with the concept, of releasing people once the center of my universe to drift in other galaxies. This experience gives me a keen intuition when someone does not want to be released, they just don't know how to compensate for the eccentricities of their own orbit.
Soon in Xenology: Infections.