Those with whom I have maintained contact with are the most valued friends I have. I do not wonder that the value of friendship increases with time. This fact seems plain, and can be explained with simple logic: the longer you know someone, the more they know you. This is true even if, upon meeting a person, you tell them nothing about yourself before that moment. By virtue of spending regular time with the person, they know more everyday of who you “are”. The argument could be made — indeed likely has been made, and made sufficiently in my imagination for me to stand in agreement with it — that it is impossible for someone to know anything about you before they day on which you meet. This given that any description of yourself prior to your meeting would be colored necessarily by who you “are” at that given time, and thus would not in fact be your “past,” but your “current” version of that past.
I digress. I recently had a message from a friend of mine from high school. Indeed, we were best friends, and we have known each other since we were very small. Since high school, though, we have rarely talked.
His message regarded the “Monster Molecule,” which, of course, is methane. He is in science now, and his masters studies bring him regularly in contact with this mother of all molecules.
Why we had termed methane the Monster Molecule escapes me, now. I do know that it was mostly nonsense, owed to our preoccupation with making Chemistry not only educational but also extremely funny and entertaining. (After learning about Johannes Brønsted‘s theory of acids and bases, I began writing my name with the “ø” in place of a traditional “o”, figuring, simply, if Brønsted can do it, so can I. I wrote my name thus on the tops of my papers, inside chemistry and out, for the better part of the next two years. This is humor in AP Chemistry. Incidentally, my Chemistry teacher used the “ø” to sign my yearbook. She knew funny when she saw it.) We imagined methane, which has four strong covalent bonds, as some sort of molecular monster truck, coming into the chemical arena to crush all those lesser molecules in a fantastic spectacle. We even went so far, whenever mentioning the Monster Molecule, as to say it exclusively in our best “Monster Truck Rally Announcer” voice.
Gosh, those were the days, weren’t they? The spirit of free creativity reigned supreme in all our endeavors.
I remember the Book Nook. This was (and still is) a used book store in the town where we grew up. Books, of course, having great importance to me, and to him as well, we spent time at the Book Nook. A bit of lore grew up between us regarding the owner of the Book Nook(or the manager, although in an establishment of this kind we assumed the two were one), who was an immense person. He was fat to the point of using a cane to get around. Not old, and not well kept, he wore t-shirts and sweat pants behind the counter where he totaled the books. He would buy back your books, if they weren’t rubbish, for store credit, which you could use to buy other (though fewer) books. Whenever we would enter the store, the owner would be telling a story, thus The Story Teller, loudly enough so that everyone in the store could here him, thus the Loud Talker. He was invariably talking to someone in the store, telling them about a piece of gossip, a recent happening with regards to the business, the latest headlines, the plot of a book of interest. However, there was the sense as we perused the science fiction section, the history/cookbooks section, that he was telling us all a story. There was no music in the store, as one is used to hearing in bookstores — classical or jazz or top 40, or jazz versions of top 40 — just The Story Teller, The Loud Talker talking on and on, telling his story.
None of his stories do I remember. I don’t remember if I cared what he was saying. Most of the time his stories had nothing to do with me. The Story Teller, though, lives on.
Once we went to the store. I think they were in the midst of relocating, to a new free-standing building down the street (which seems to me now to have formerly been some sort of restaurant). My friend and I came to look, and perhaps to buy a book. What we found were two shelves of discount books. Discount books in a used bookstore are sold at a very good price. Here we found a steal. “4 for 50¢ or 1bag for $5.” We had $15 dollars between us, and left the store with upwards of 70 books.
This in itself sent us rolling. Why did we buy all these books? We hadn’t even looked at the titles, but chose the ones which fit most snugly into the bags, thus more books for our buck. We left the store with only one possible reason in mind: we need to give these books away. And so we went to a Wal-Mart parking lot, emptied the bags of books into the trunk of his car, and began offering “free books” to anyone who happened by the car on their way to or from the store.
It was surprising how many people wouldn’t take a book. Who doesn’t want a free book?