Monday Column: Shutting out the past

Opinion Sunday 30/April/2023 17:00 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday Column: Shutting out the past

Not everything we remember with great fondness about our past. Many people painfully shut out their history as they struggle to come to terms with their background. When the past tries to reach out on our present life out from the shadows, we hide behind the curtain of respectability.

You may not have troubles to deal with the past but if your friends displayed the symptoms of the troubled past, then it is time to review your friendship. I am not critical of my friends or trying to peek into their past but sometimes signs are too strong to miss. Let me give you an example. When an old college mate was appointed to a very high position in the government, I was determined to be the first to congratulate him. That was an elementary mistake because I soon found out that I had to get through three secretaries just to get an appointment. I was furious because my turn to see him was three weeks away.

“I only want to congratulate him,” I told a pretty secretary who would not even look at me when I spoke to her,” I am not looking for favours or contracts.”

She flicked the pages of the appointment book and then asked, “Are you a friend of his?”

Now we are getting somewhere, I answered eagerly, “yes.”

“Then I will make it a week earlier,” she said and shut the book and completely forgot about me. However, I was not going to wait for two weeks. I searched my mobile for his number and called him. It was not that easy because the man was now important and his number had to be changed. Well, I said to myself, that was it then. I had to get on with my life but it was not to be that way. A week later, another ex-college mate called me. He had a similar story to tell. He, too, had to wait for an eternity to see our friend.

“You know something?” the friend said to me,” perhaps we are too attached to his past. I mean, we did things together in those four years at college which he does not want us to remind him that he has now moved up the social ladder.”

I refused to accept that theory. It was then I decided to find out for myself. I kept that appointment and went to his office as scheduled. I was due to see him at twelve but half an hour went past and I was still waiting. I asked the same pretty secretary if there was an appointment mixed up. She looked at me as if I was a nuisance and said,” His Excellency has gone to perform his noon prayers. You need to be patient.”

So I waited patiently for the HE and whiled away the time amusing myself with various outdated magazines that were neatly stacked up on a mahogany table. Ten minutes later, an important looking man walked in and he was shown straight in. As I was opening my mouth to protest, the woman stared at me and said coldly,” your turn next.”

My turn did come but it was two hours late from the original appointment. I gathered myself from the low leather chair and staggered in the office big enough to entertain two hundred people. I am not kidding but I had to scan the vast room in search of my friend. He was seated in the far corner behind a massive desk. He did not even bother to stand up as I stretched my hand to greet him. Exactly two minutes later, the elegant lady walked in to announce the end of my audience with the HE. I knew then, without the shadow of a doubt, my former friend had trouble reconciling with his past.