MANNO: Generic “keep in touch” line hardly put to action

“Keep in touch.” It’s the go-to last line during the ambiguous parting scene of a real-life buddy movie. If it’s a good movie, I love to be left hanging by the end – how many different ways can these guys cross paths in the future? They just had so much fun together the past two hours – what’s stopping them from grabbing a beer and catching up down the road, at the very least?

But once it ends, what’s left is whatever I can come up with in my head. All I have to create the ending is what I know from reality – and if I am my own case study, there is no ebullient reunion. No contact. Either the bad friend leaves the other friend’s email in his back pocket, sending it through a wash cycle and an extra rinse, or the bad friend just spends the rest of his days being too darn lazy to send a postcard or make a collect call. I am that jerk.

During a bit of spring cleaning this week, the guilt accrued from not keeping in touch with people hit me like an anvil. Rifling through receipts on my desk, I found a torn piece of notebook paper with the numbers of some chums I had met my first weeks in France; in my 9,078 unread emails, there was a couple here and there where I had neglected to reply; I remembered missed phone calls and “just can’t make it” meet ups.  Somewhere down the road, this is going to get me in trouble.

This all sent me into existential turmoil, of course, which I expressed by consuming a brick of cheese and watching Batman cartoons. I’ve been the jerk my whole life, never keeping in touch when I should. Try saying “Nebraska” 150 times and see if you still know what it means. It’s like that. I’ve numbed myself to the importance of the person-to-person link. The obvious aside – giving Mother and Father the “sign of life” email from time to time, sending strange web links to friends – the small run-in relationships we form can hardly ever go bad with an update or two.

I guess I’m not too far gone, and there’s certainly an attempt in the works to fix the problem this week. Those emails are getting replies. I think a good benchmark is to maintain contact with the frequency of a 1908 postcard exchange using the convenience of modern technology – the updates are happening, but you’re never too far removed from your own world.

I don’t need to be the jerk. Maybe I’ll try and rewrite this a bit.

Let’s say instead the line comes in the middle of the movie, at that pivotal moment when you know the hero and the passing friend will indeed “keep in touch.” I mean, there’s an hour left in the movie. A quick email or a phone call later and the bond is reformed. In fact, the wait to reconnect can be the most fascinating part. Who knows where your momentary friend will be in life at some faraway point down the timeline? Maybe you’ll connect in some way you hadn’t before and your friend from the back burner is now a real one. Life’s all about connections, I’m told.

Tony Manno is a junior double majoring in journalism and writing-intensive English. Email him at [email protected].