One minute you’re here
Next minute you’re gone
– Bruce Springsteen, ‘One Minute You’re Here’
I used to walk downtown a lot. Sometimes for an acupuncture appointment or work meeting. On other occasions, I’d run errands or go for a cinnamon bun at Bubby Rose’s. Whatever the reason, I used to make the thirty minute journey there and thirty minute journey back several times a month.
The pandemic has changed this. Like many of us, my circle is smaller now. Among much else, this contraction has affected my walks into town. What was once every week or so has now atrophied to – well, in all honesty, I cannot recall how long its been since I last made the trip.
This absence has had an impact. I’ve not strolled through Oak Bay Junction in a while, for one thing. I’ve not peeked in to see how Sound Hounds is doing, what the new barber shop’s up to, what the latest incarnation of the Winchester Galleries site might be. I’ve not checked in on the crumbling house near Central Middle School. Not wandered by that orange-hued fitness place that used to house HtO.
And it’s been a while since I saw Geoff.
I first met him when he was working as a barista at a local Starbucks. My daughter and I went there frequently. Through her interest, he and I struck up a conversation about the Beach Boys. This soon became a broader exchange about music. Then, as months and years flowed by, an even longer dialogue – one extending well beyond his tenure at the coffee shop.
For a while, I’d run into him outside the retail outlet that became his new job. The last couple years, however, we’d cross paths somewhere along my route into and back from town. We once ran into each other outside Peacock’s Billiards, for example, and picked up our conversation there. We passed a chilly but enjoyable hour discussing early-era Chicago and an amazing Russian cover band called Leonid and Friends.
Like much in the past few months, however, these meetings and this conversation are on pause. Just as I’ve not been downtown much recently, I’ve not seen Geoff in ages. We’ve not spoken of the new box-set from Joni Mitchell, my recent enjoyment of Stan Getz, and whatever he might be listening to these days.
I really miss this. Circumstances have changed, as we all are well aware, and this little piece of my life – a sliver I hadn’t fully appreciated before – has fallen away. I do know, of course, that in the midst of a global pandemic, losing an occasional encounter with a casual acquaintance is no comparison for what others are suffering. But this little loss is making itself felt right now.
I’ve been enjoying the new Bruce Springsteen record, for instance. In the absence of Geoff’s intermittent companionship, I’ve no one to speak with about the delicious ways Springsteen’s voice frays during ‘If I was the Priest’, no one to share the Orbison-like heartache that accompanies the lyric, “Baby, baby, baby / I’m so alone”.
Like I said, this loss is making itself felt right now.
And life seems a little diminished as a result.