Off the Main, 1987. (l-r Vincent Dow, Bob McMillan, Sudhir Pinto)
When I was a teenager, I would read books like A Moveable Feast or the Subterraneans and long to have been there. Paris in the 20s; San Francisco in the 50s; New York City in the early 1970s. Always, I’d feel that maybe somewhere on earth there was a scene like that where I belonged. A place with fast girls and witty conversation and people who sparkled like crossette fireworks in the night.
Older now, I think of those thoughts as an adolescent outgrowth of a fierce desire to play with toy cars and trucks, but I realize too that there are moments when life simply transcends. It is times like these when we feel powerfully connected to the world and know, deep inside our DNA and our other secret codes, that this is the place we’d most like to be, and the time to live is now.
I felt that way one night with Sudhir.
It was late, on a velvety Montreal summer night in July 1987. We’d been out with cute girls and buffoons and witty friends and it felt like the mid-point of summer, where we’d tasted enough fun times to know what we were in for, and yet the summer still stretched before us like our youth. People don’t always acknowledge the darkness of youth, but I remember that both of us felt like we’d been somehow delivered from a grey curse. We were young, and newly happy.
Sudhir could be one of the silliest people. He shared my love of over-used catch phrases and self-depreciating humor. But he roamed on the dark side. With his long hair and tweed jackets, he looked like a philosopher poet. And inside, I think that was what his life was like.
The scale of things was so much grander and simultaneously trivial back then. That night on the Main, we’d outlasted everyone that night and were talking, excited, at the Cabane on St Laurent Boulevard. The city seemed to swim outside and everything seemed special and alive and full of possibilities. It’s hard to describe the feeling except to say it was like being young and really, truly, honestly realizing how fucking completely amazing that is. To be truly alive, and young and happy.
All the time I knew him, Sudhir was thirsty for a kind of intimacy it seemed that he could never achieve. We were both tortured souls, seeking something that was maybe a fantasy. But he had the better words to express it. In a letter he wrote me after that dark night of ecstasy, he told me a few things he was feeling about life: “Life is transitory and I can’t seem to hold on to anything. Nothing lasts. In two years, you may be gone, Anna may be gone, London, Philosophy — everything but my family because they are my family — may be gone… I haven’t moved around a lot, but my interests, loves, friendships, aspirations have always changed, and, I fear, always will.”
Sudhir was right. A few years later we did part ways. And we did not stay in touch, something that I now regret very deeply. But I’ve kept his letters, and I’ve read them these past few weeks, and fondly remembered our burning white nights of youth.