Would You Keep Your Promise to Meet Someone Years Later?

a scene from the movie before sunrise

Every now and then, I feel drawn to a particular genre of movies. Movies, where the lead characters of the same or the opposite sex make a pact to meet at a mutually agreed location sometime in the future. Sometimes in a month, some years, and sometimes in a decade or more. 

The most recent movie from that genre that I ended up watching was a movie called ‘Before Sunset.’ 

The movie stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy – the film is simple but endearing.

a scene from the movie before sunrise
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke enjoying each others company in a scene from the film ‘Before Sunrise’, 1995. (Photo by Castle Rock Entertainment/Getty Images)

Two strangers meet on a Eurail train, strike a conversation, and end up disembarking in Vienna and spending a night together. 

Through their free-flowing conversation, roaming the streets of Vienna, they develop an attachment to each other, but instead of acting on it, they decide to meet six months later at the same spot where they parted ways. 

They only know each other’s first names, nothing more, and agree on having no correspondence in the following six months. 

I must have seen the movie ten times. But it never grows old.

Like any other well-meaning fan, I thought their idea of no communication was stupid; I wanted them to make that meeting happen while secretly hoping for a happily ever after. So why the rant?

I recently read short stories by O.Henry and came across one called After Twenty Years. Yes, you guessed it right! 

It’s on the same theme, about two friends deciding on a rendezvous two decades later. 

Jimmy and Bob, two very close friends, were kids when they parted ways, agreeing on a pact to see each other at the restaurant they were together at last. 

Billy has become a very successful criminal, while Jimmy has taken up a job at the city department.

While Billy is waiting for his friend at the designated meeting spot, a patrolman walks around and strikes a conversation. Billy is confident that his friend will show up. 

The patrolman soon takes his leave, and soon after Jimmy shows up. It doesn’t take long for Billy to realize that the man is not Jimmy. 

The guy mentions that he is a policeman sent by the patrolman, the real Jimmy Wells, to arrest him because his old friend didn’t have the heart to do so himself.

Of course, I wanted the criminal to be caught but seeing a friend betraying another was still painful. For them to keep a promise made as a child, two decades later, the friendship meant something to both of them. The criminal was entirely in the wrong here, and his friend was duty bound to have him arrested; the moment of betrayal still stings, though.

I can’t help but wonder if things would have been better if the boys had kept in touch all those years. Was there a possibility of Billy turning Jimmy into a criminal and Jimmy turning him into a police officer? 

Maybe they would have drifted apart, knowing how different from each other they were, and gone down their separate paths. 

That’s life as we know it. We grow (and sometimes apart). 

That possibility, in my mind, still seems a little less painful.

Was Billy too careless or too gullible to think nothing would change between the friends after two decades of separation? Was he wrong to be fully convinced that the loyalties of ‘yore would still stand? Or was he a little too human? A little too eager to show his accomplishments to his friends and make him proud?

All I know is that in addition to following the 

“Location. Location. Location.” mantra all those years, it wouldn’t have hurt him to try:

Communication. Communication. Communication.

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