I saw this guy that looked just like someone I used to know. This sort of thing happens all the time, but in this case it struck me that he appeared just like he would look so many years later, had he aged as we all have in 20 years. He was in the middle of an awkward u-turn as I rode past on my bike and he smiled apologetically at me through the window.
It was later that night that I remembered the encounter and wondered about the guy he made me think of, a boy I knew from a summer camp. The wondering had me reaching for my phone to look him up online, daring the internet to answer my curiosity.
I typed his first and last name- a very common name- into the Facebook search bar. Search.
There it was, just a name associated with a business entry, but this name had what I knew to be his middle name sandwiched between. And the business was a doctor’s office. He’s a doctor, this much I know. Underneath the entry there was a location.
I know, right? But I forgot to mention-
I live in Berkeley, see. I rode past him on a Berkeley street, and when I saw the town under his name I knew I hadn’t seen someone who reminded me of him.
It was him. He had smiled apologetically at me.
In the moment I knew this, I felt a spiraling and was flooded with thoughts/memories/questions. It was a scene from a movie with a sudden vertigo effect. Had he recognized me, too, or thought he did?
I met him when I was 12; I last saw him at 17. He looked me up when I was 22, and that is the last I heard of him. I remember his voice on the phone. He told me that he’d always said he’d look me up if he ever came to California. He was living in San Diego, a cardiology resident. I was quiet on the line, reclining in bed next to my days-old daughter, my second child. My husband and toddler had gone for a bike ride. He seemed surprised to hear that, and we didn’t have much to say.
One thing I know: I don’t want to run into him again. The thought of seeing people from my past sends me into a panic. What, really, can we have to say to one another? I’d rather walk up to a perfect stranger and strike up conversation, and you couldn’t pay me to do that. Hello, stranger. At least we have no expectations.