During my travels down the west coast of the US, seven people were never far from my thoughts. I’ve never met any of them face to face. I’d like to think I know them all well after more than a decade of cyberspace interaction in various forms. Oddly enough, the better I feel I know them, the less I truly know about their real lives.
Some I’ve seen pictures of, and know their names, and have exchanged e-mails and/or addresses and/or I’ve talked to them on the phone. Others, none of the above. I would be passing very close to where these people live, at one time or another, during this journey, and I’d dearly love to meet each and every one of them, but it just wasn’t going to happen for a variety of reasons.
One I knew would be working on the day I was in their area, so I didn’t even reach out, because I’m not one to mess with someone’s livelihood. Others got back to me, but not soon enough for me to alter my plans, or they already had plans, to our mutual disappointment. One I had lost touch with in this COVID era, and it would have been weird to call, wanting to meet, after all this time. Another two don’t seem to feel comfortable meeting me after weekly contact over the course of a decade. Like I’m capable of being anything other than my authentic self and might actually be a serial killer or something. Like I’d hurt a fly. Ouch.
It’s a strange world we live in in these modern times, where we can feel we know people quite intimately and yet not know them at all at the same time.
Regardless of the reasons, and my respect for their various wishes, this journey for me had a slight undercurrent of missed opportunities. It was a disappointing undertone that I did my best to keep to myself so as not to ruin the trip for my spouse. But for each one, when I was in their area, I took a moment to look at all the compass points on the horizon and I thought, “I love you, ______________. I wish you well. I wish we could have crossed paths.”
And for all I know, we did. I passed a lot of people. People that just may have been my good friends, waiting at a stop light during rush hour, or standing in line at a coffee shop. I know I’m a friend worth having, and I know meeting them would have been a meaningful experience. At least I have the comfort of knowing I looked in their general direction at least once. It’s all very bittersweet.
There’s only one thing worse than two ships passing in the night. It’s when both ships know it’s going to happen and yet the sailors never even get a chance wave hello from their mutual poop decks.
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