Do you ever think about people who have crossed paths with you over the years and wonder where they are? Have you ever had a transitory moment with a stranger and left thinking they could have become friends?
That happened many times traveling. Someone met on a train, a brief conversation in a bed and breakfast, those moments when there was a click, a recognition of the other, a knowledge that if there was just more time…
I’m not sure that happens as much these days as it is so easy to give an email address. I wonder if this generation misses out on the mystery of those ‘what if’ questions.
Then there are those we have lost contact with. There is never an end to those stories. We don’t see how they grew up, who they became, how they maneuvered through life. We’re left with occasionally having something remind us of a person in our past. We spend a few moments wondering where they are and who they are, and then we immerse back into our busy lives. These days we might even take a moment to type their name into a search engine.
When I was young, there was a boy. I’m only going to use his first initial. K’s mother was a friend of my mother’s. Even though K was my age, mom seemed to think he needed watching after. Or maybe she thought I just needed to make up for past treatment of him. Supposedly, when we were toddlers I would get in K’s face and scream loudly just to make him cry.
I remember one day, about age seven or eight, and mom sent me to the local grocery store to buy a loaf of bread. This was in Seattle in the 1960s and the store was a couple blocks away. These days I’d be labeled a ‘free range’ child and hauled into foster care and my parents prosecuted. But I digress.
Mom made me take K along and made me hold his hand. I don’t know if she was afraid he’d wander into traffic, get lost, or what. On the way we had to walk by my ‘boyfriend’s’ house. If you can have a boyfriend at that age. N was furious, yelling at me that we were never going to get married because I was cheating on him. Seriously. At age eight.
K was terrified.
N grew up to marry young and divorce, then marry again and divorce again. I lost contact with his family years ago.
Back to K. There was also the time mom made us play Candyland on the back porch on a sunny day. We played 26 games. I won 23. K cried. I got in trouble for not letting him win.
The thing is, he was a nice kid. In our teens we got along fine. But we lost contact in later teen years. I mean, the only glue there, was the friendship between our parents. He grew up and moved away as did I.
I did hear that in his twenties he was living in California, had a job as a banker, and was in a very happy relationship with someone and that they hoped some day to be able to marry.
Which is why I’ve been thinking about him lately. Wondering if finally, way too many years later, now that we are moving into a period where gay marriage is finally being allowed legally, if K is married and happy.
Okay, I also wonder if he has nightmares about a kid screaming in his face, or giant Candyland board games haunting him.
So many people who have passed through our lives, touched them so briefly, left an impression, a sense of opportunity lost, or even, in the case of N, a sense of relief they are gone.
Life is so fleeting.