If you have had friends for a long time, if you have been friends for a long time, then being with and around them, the people who knew you then is like being a version of yourself that you are not anymore.
That was then, this is now, there are intervening years, there is intervening grief.
Then is when he was alive, and you forget, even though it is now, that he is not alive anymore because you are in the presence of another person from the time when he was. And you find yourself, back in the country where he lived (though not the country where he died), almost asking - and more than once - you find yourself wanting to ask, how is he doing?
You do not ask, because you know better, you know better, and you have been worse.
So you do not say his name (out loud) but you know that you are wishing that he were there, at dinner, where you could ask him: how are you doing?
You do not ask, and instead, in this country where he lived, in the presence of those you knew him too, you think (silently), I wish you were still here, I wish you were here, I wish you were here, still.
What if over tea, what if on our walks, what if
in the long yawn of the fog, what if in the long middle
of the wait, what if in the passage, in the what if
that carries us each day into seasons, what if
in the renewed resilience, what if in the endlessness,
what if in a lifetime of conversations, what if
in the clarity of consciousness, what if nothing changes?
— from what if by Claudia Rankine