Remembering an Old Friend
Written by
Rachel Aydt
January 2012
Written by
Rachel Aydt
January 2012

This morning I looked for the faded scar between two fingers on my left hand, and was troubled to not be able to see it. If I pull the skin on the back of my hand tautly, I can at least imagine that it's still there, barely, a centimeter of white to remind me of being 12 or 13, a Plaza Rat hanging around daily on the Plaza in Santa Fe. Shanti Ananda, a sweet boy who I looked up to in an indescribable way when I was between 12 and 16 years old, passed away on December 31st after a sudden brain aneurysm, I learned through old friends on Facebook. That afternoon so many years ago, we'd played a game called bloody knuckles. We each held our hands out, while the other tried to swipe their opponent's hand with a metal comb, right in between their knuckles. I was on the losing end of that particular battle.

I can only speak of knowing Shanti for a small group of clustered (and very intense, formative) years in the early to mid 1980s, years that I believe launched us Plaza Rats into our true selves. His blonde mohawk and Ank necklace would appear on the Plaza every day after school, and everyone would light up. Despite the fact that we were all committing daily, crazy shenanigans together, I always felt safe when he was around. He gave the best hugs; this I remember after 25 years, and let me tell you, I'm sure I needed each and every one of them.

The image that I have seared into my mind that I can contribute to what will surely be a long litany of first and last impressions, is of Shanti strolling down one of the paths that lead to the center monument of the Plaza. There he is, adorned with his exterior palette of teen angst, with one exception; he also exudes a protective light, and his loyalty knows no bounds. If we're scaling the walls of the post office after school, we'll be safe because he's with us. If we're climbing through the tunnels of Heaven and Hell after school, we'll be safe, because Shanti's with us. If I'm sneaking into the Lensic up the fire escape, I'm safe because he's around somewhere; he always was. If Catherine and I are getting picked up from Crapshaw Junior High by older  kids, and Shanti's among them, we're safe because he's there. Thinking back, I think he had a gift for soaking up the burden of others' insecurities with a kind of precious and unconditional love. He listened, and he was a wise counselor.  The cast of characters that surrounded us in that time have left the long lasting memories of a beautiful and struggling lot.

Today is New Year's Day, and I took my son hiking down the Appalachian Trail at the Delaware Water Gap. The scene reminded me intensely of growing up in Santa Fe and taking drives up the mountain to hike at Big and and Little Tesuque. As Jamie and I scaled jagged, mossy rocks, appreciating the sounds of the rushing water and the sun shining, I thought of Shanti. I kept imagining him in his youth, because that's all I knew. He was beautiful and smiling, and his arms were outstretched in the way that I remember them. May you find peace, my old friend, and may your family find comfort in those  in-between spaces that loved ones leave behind when they leave too soon.

Let's be friends

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