I ran into two people from my past this week. Not my long, long, long ago past like Ohio or DC or Benidoleig, but my right-here-in-Toronto past. It’s hard to believe that I actually even have a past here. Some days I feel like I just arrived but it’s been almost twenty years — TWENTY, TWO-OH!O!HOH! That’s certainly enough time to have a “past”, eh? But it’s so unbelievable that I’ve now lived in Toronto longer than anywhere else I’ve lived in my entire 68 years. For someone like me who spent a lot of her life planting roots in a place and then yanking them out before they had a chance to take hold, this “permanency” seems odd, even a little uncomfortable. But it is what it is. So I guess I can finally acknowledge that I live in Toronto and this is probably where I shall stay and yes, indeed, I have a past here.
And part of that past are all those people who have come and gone during those 20 years. One day they were on my speed dial and me on theirs and then, Whoosh, just like that, I’m no longer meeting them in the pub after work or inviting them over here to dinner. What happened? I think it’s just the natural flow of life and that we need different people at different times and the ones that really matter stick around through it all. But, even if it’s natural, I also think it’s a little sad too. I think about all those people I was so close to in DC who are no longer about my life, not even on email. I think it’s just plain too hard to keep up long distance relationships — except with family who are strung together by a thread that runs between us. So even if we don’t talk or see each other or even like each other all that much, we’re still connected.
But you would think that if you live in the same city that you would at least bump into your past on the street but it really hasn’t happened all that much. That’s why I was surprised to run into two people in one week. One of them had been my client for over a year and who I considered a friend. But then, she stopped answering emails and phone calls and just, poof, disappeared or at least from me. Then there she was on the sidewalk right outside the library. I raised my hand and was just about to say, “Hey, how are you?”, when I saw her purposely dart into the middle of a group of students, huddled over so she could avoid looking towards me. I knew she was doing it to get away from me. Me? What did I do? I felt bad all the rest of the way home.
Then, the next day, I was on a ridiculously crowded streetcar for 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The car was filled with parents who must have run out of things to do with their kids for spring break so decided to take them for rides on the street car from end to end. I tried to make eye contact to get one of the little dears to give up their seat to me. But no luck. They hadn’t been taught that lesson yet. So I pushed my way past the folks blocking the aisle, murmuring to them, not quite silently, that the back of the car gets there at the same time that the front gets there. When I finally got to an open space, I saw someone who had been on the edges of my early days in Toronto. My past was following me around. We had been on Boards together and had the same interest in work and women. But we were never friends and I don’t think she ever considered me a colleague or much of anything. I’ve passed her on the street now and then and had started to smile and say something, but then she’d just walk by, like I wasn’t even there. But this time I decided that I was not going to be ignored two days in a row by people from my past. So I purposely hung on to the same pole that she had commandeered.
“Hey, how are you?” I smiled.
She looked at me like she couldn’t quite place me or that I smelled bad or that she didn’t really want to talk to me. So I asked her outright, “Do you remember who I am?”
“Oh, sure, sure I do.” Yeah, right. Then, I think I saw a slight sneer on her face when she said, “So what are you up to these days?”
What was she expecting, an oh-nothing-much, just getting older? “Oh, I just published my latest book,” I said brightly. “It’s been quite well received. It’s very exciting.” I sounded gushy even to myself, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do when facing her past.
Sarcastically, she said, “What’s this your third or fourth?”
“No, second,” I modestly answered her. Mind you, I could have, but I did not, ask her how many books she had published since we last met. I know the answer would have been Zero. I was proud of my restraint not to slip into snarkiness.
“Is this about office workers, too?” Aha, she remembered even though she said this with a “who cares” attitude. She reminded me of the murmuring ex-husband who never thought my scholarly work quite measured up to his tome on war and destruction.
“No, no, no. This one is called Mediterranean Journey and it’s stories from my travels through Europe in the 1970s. It’s very good.”
Boringly, with the smirk returning and an “Oh, please” hand in the air, she said, “We all had one of those.”
I’d had enough, I started to move further in the back of the car. While I was still within earshot, I turned and smiled sweetly at her and said, “Ah, but they weren’t like mine.”
I must have looked tired from the effort of being semi-polite because someone got up and gave me their seat. After these two back-to-back days with my past, I was starting to believe that maybe it was better not to run into your past at all. Both encounters made me feel sad, indeed.
Then I opened the throw-away paper and read my Horoscope. It said: “If someone says something that annoys you today you must let them know you are not amused. Nip it in the bud.” I felt proud that I had handled the past exactly how it should have been handled — at least accoding to my horoscope.
Be sure to check UPCOMING EVENTS on this blog for some fun Spring happenings.