I used to have this friend that I shall call Grouch. Grouch complained about many things, openly judged most people, hated trying anything new, and stubbornly believed that he was correct on all subjects. I often wondered why I hung out with the miserable prick.
With effort I would drag Grouch to clubs and festivals and games, encouraging him to eat without remorse, drink without conscience, dance without restraint, and celebrate with strangers. But with a dismissive shake of the head, he would stand back and hold the camera while the rest of us had fun.
My friends and I used to go on mini trips to amazing cities full of life and sound and culture. We would find ourselves in strange and hilarious situations that I would beg Grouch to participate in. But with an air of superiority and crossed arms, he would stand back and hold the camera while the rest of us made memories.
Weeks after returning from a trip or event, as if on cue, he would look back at our pictures and talk about how much fun he’d had. Incredible.
Truthfully Grouch was not all bad. Amid the eye rolling and head shaking and frowning, were occasional glimpses of a childlike silliness. Encountering this side of him was so rare and so wonderful it needed a name. We called it Wally.
So while Grouch may have been in Toronto complaining about the cost of dinner, it was Wally on the street afterward, enthusiastically moonwalking into the middle of a dance performance.
It was definitely Grouch in New York, recoiling at the loud crowds of tourists, but it was Wally on the subway, passionately playing a stranger’s bongo drum.
In Washington Grouch refused to go dancing and opted to stay in the hotel. But in Boston Wally stayed up late, spitting off the top of a building.
At a wedding reception in Montreal, Grouch scolded our rowdy antics. But on a beach in Sydney, Wally drew a sunblock smiley face on the stomach of a sleepy sunbather.
Wally was spontaneous and carefree and lived only in scarce moments of complete abandon. Grouch was a stick in the mud that could only appreciate a good time in retrospect.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my friend. It’s been a long time since I let go of all inhibitions and lost myself in a moment. As the years roll on, I spend more time looking back on my mistakes than I do living in my triumphs. Just because we become adults doesn’t mean we have to forget our childlike silliness.
I miss Wally. In his absence I fear that I may have become a Grouch.