The other day I ran into someone I knew for a short time in high school, must’ve been 23 years ago or so. We chatted while I folded laundry and now days later I’m wondering why I can’t get him out of my mind. It felt like we connected in some way. Like maybe we could be friends, if only we had the time and means.
I can’t figure it out. How did he get under my skin in such a short time? I doubt we talked for even an hour. And yet I felt a connection. Was it the remembrance of times past? Hardly. I can barely remember that far back. My memory is full of holes.
What I do remember about him was that even back then I felt a connection although I knew he felt none towards me. I considered him a “beautiful soul”. He was quiet and, I cringe to say it, beautiful. He was attractive, yes, but it was his spirit that I found most beautiful. He had this way of speaking quietly that drew you closer; I never wanted to miss what he was saying because it seemed like at any point in a conversation he could drop some profound thing in your lap that could change your life or alter your way of thinking.
It also seemed that when a person spoke to him, he was really truly listening to what you were saying. Like really listening. Almost unheard of in teens, yet there he was. He seemed, to me, to be wise beyond his years. I wondered what made him that way. Was it natural or born of experience? I’m sure I will never know.
I can also say that I had a teeny-tiny crush on him. But, I knew even back then that he was way out of my league. He was this beautiful soul, quiet, reflective, smart, gorgeous….and all the girls wanted him. I never stood a chance. Add into the mix that for some reason one of the ‘mean’ popular girls pulled me aside one day and told me in no uncertain terms that he was hers. Maybe she caught me looking at him or us talking, I have no idea. But I knew I’d never be more than a bus-riding-acquaintance.
Fast-forward twenty some years and oddly enough one day I found myself thinking about him again. Not that he never crossed my thoughts, because someone like that is always going to keep cropping up, if for no other reason than that he was kind to me. I wondered where life had taken him and what I had found so intriguing about him. Why had I always wanted to know him more? What drew me in? What exactly was it?
And two days later, this man walks into the laundromat: attractive and self-assured, although I wouldn’t say cocky. More like, comfortable with who his is. We made eye contact and I looked away because, you know, he’s attractive and it’s rude to stare. But he looked so familiar. I chanced a second, then third, look. Our eyes met again. He walked over and stood near where I was folding my laundry and I was surprised when he spoke up and said I looked familiar and I had to agree.
Immediately he knew my name. I’d say I was embarrassed that I couldn’t readily know who he was but I’m used to that since I did so many drugs years ago that a lot of that information just isn’t available to me anymore. But as soon as he said his name, gosh, I remembered. I saw the resemblance to the young man of my memories. Mostly, his eyes, his smile. I blurted out that I had just been thinking about him and here he is. My mouth just opened up and I started vomiting random words, I think. It wasn’t that the crush was back. But I was impressed that he remembered me. Even my name. I’m not a memorable person. Neither in my personality nor my looks. Yet here this incredible guy remembers me. It was odd. He must have a great memory.
We chatted about odds and ends. He still spoke quietly. I still felt the tug to lean in closer to catch every word he said. Don’t get the wrong impression. He never flirted or led me on or acted unbecomingly. Honestly, most of the time he looked down at some paperwork he held in his hands. Randomly jotting numbers down here and there. I wondered briefly if I was distracting him from his errand. If I was, he never let on or seemed impatient or put out. He showed me pictures of his kids on his phone and there was love in his eyes and pride in his voice. Sometimes during our conversation, it seemed like he was holding back, like there was something he wanted to say but couldn’t or wouldn’t bring himself to do it. I could guess a thousand things but it will be another question mark I’m sure I’ll never have answered.
As so often happens when you run into someone from your past, he brought up mutual “friends” or schoolmates in an attempt to find common ground in a conversation. I just don’t remember a lot, so it was a dead end for me. I’m more interested in the here and now. I’m not thrilled with who I used to be in my past. I’m embarrassed by some things and ashamed of others. But I’m fairly happy with who I’ve decided to be now. So when he started talking about his land and the plans he has for it and I could tell he really likes his property, I warmed up to the subject. I would have listened to him talk about his kids and property all day. He mentioned his wife in passing several times but was hesitant to go into much detail. I didn’t pry.
I did find myself blurting a few “too-much-information” sentences and thoughts, which I’m prone to do in certain circumstances. In hindsight, he was probably thinking ‘why oh why did I stop and talk to this girl?’ As I was leaving, driving out of the parking lot, he waved me down and gave me his number. I put it in my phone and texted him so he had mine, but I knew I’d probably never see or hear from him again.
As the days wear on, and he stays in my mind I keep thinking, why? What was it about him? I think, he’s not actually interested in me. He was just being nice. That doesn’t seem to have changed over the years. I think, he doesn’t truly want to talk again. But then why did he wave me down? Is that just what people do nowadays? Share phone numbers with no intentions of following through? Or did he honestly feel a connection too? I don’t have great self-esteem, so I’m not so sure on that last one. Why do I keep thinking about him? It’s not his good looks. Yes, he’s even more gorgeous now, but honestly, lots and lots and lots of people are attractive. Every day that I’m out in the public, I see beautiful people. Beauty is everywhere and only goes so far.
I’m thinking maybe I can’t get him out of my mind because of a few things he said. They got me thinking. Am I living life to its fullest or am I just stuck in a rut of “well, this is the way it is. I’ve made my decisions and I’m stuck with them.” A few well-placed, benign comments had got me really thinking. Reflecting on my life and what’s going on and where it’s headed and even a bit of why I am the way I am.
Or maybe it’s because, while yes, he was working on paperwork sporadically during our interaction, he seemed to be actually listening to what I had to say. Like hearing what was underneath the words. Like he could hear more than I was physically saying. And with no ulterior motives. Nothing to gain. No preconceived ideas, since we don’t know each other. Just listening. And then he offers up these insightful comments or observations about me and I was blown away. He must be gifted. I told you he was smart. Here’s this guy that doesn’t know me and yet he starts saying these things like he knows me. Like without trying, we were natural friends.
I’m not gonna be all weird and say that I’ve got my crush back on him, I don’t. I don’t even know him. But still, without the knowing, and still, with the very little time we had together, I keep thinking of possibilities. It felt so natural to be standing there chatting with him. It wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. Why not? I don’t know. But I could feel all these possibilities rising up, like a hope of a real friendship which could be had. It was a connection. Maybe it was one-way. Maybe he felt it too. But again, I’m guessing I will never see or hear from him again.
Somehow, though, I feel like a more whole person having seen him again….and yet almost empty or incomplete now that he’s gone. He mentioned – and I’m sure it was a small thing, a trifle of a thing to someone as great as him – that every once in a while you meet someone that makes such a big impression on you that you can’t let it go. And he was, I think, talking about his wife and their whirlwind dating-to-marriage relationship, but I was thinking it applies to friends too.
Sometimes you meet someone and they leave an impression on your soul and either you embrace it and become a better person and you hope that you make the same kind of impression on them so you both can mutually benefit or you suppress it and walk away, becoming a smaller person after the fact. Man. I’d really like to choose the former but I’m honestly afraid in my case it will be the latter.