Recently I was in a small place crowded full of people for a lengthy period of time, and I happened to notice an old friend smushed nearby. It is a person (I’ll refer to this person as “it,” not because of questionable gender identity, but to conceal identity of any kind) with whom I have been acquainted since elementary school, and with whom I had a close relationship in one brief season of life. Although I have been aware that we now live in the same town, this person and I have not stayed in touch or spoken for several years.
So anyway…I saw this person in the crowd and tried to make eye contact. After several minutes without luck, I began to grow suspicious. A couple of times I was positive I saw it see me. A couple of times I thought we had eye contact, but when I smiled it turned out that it was looking right past me. I began to think that this person was deliberately avoiding me (“Typical snobbish behavior,” I consoled myself). I took it as a confirmation of my hypothesis when this friend physically moved itself (no small feat in such a crowd) so that its companion was a human barrier between us.
I tried a few more times, even walking directly past this person when I had to pilgrimage to the bathroom. Not even a glimmer of recognition. I judged this person in my mind when I saw it leave before the rest of the crowd.
Yes, the story ends there. I am pretty sure that I was right in my assessment of the situation. I am pretty sure that my husband’s assessment (“You’re paranoid”) is too simplistic. But it occurred to me that if many people had been in my shoes, they would have approached this person and said hello, and carried on a friendly conversation. They never would have questioned if this person (or any person, for that matter) actually wanted to talk to them. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live with that kind of self-assurance. Obviously, I wouldn’t know.