We've all had small world encounters. I know I have had many. I've met people across the world who knew friends of mine from a small northern Canadian community where I had worked for a summer or who had known my parents in Poland before I was born. We make these connections with others at the unlikeliest times and in the strangest places. However tenuous the connection is, we sit back, smile and look differently at the person who has become a little less of a stranger. Small world occurrences make us feel more comfortable in the world, reassure us of our existence.
This is a small world story gone awry. In the following, everything happened backwards and if anything, made me feel very uncomfortable and strange. If you can tell me what it means, I would be grateful.
I walked out of the subway station, out onto a street corner shadowed by skyscrapers and swarming with people in business suits. Toronto's CBD, a place I do not belong and probably never will. It was also the last place I expected to have a run in with a long lost friend, but there she was walking towards me: Rebecca.
I hadn't seen her in close to 5 years yet I was instantly swarmed with memories. Rebecca getting her hand caught in the car door. Rebecca and I, stoned, stealing a roommate's ice cream at midnight. Rebecca on the phone telling me of a disloyal boyfriend. I re-read emails, heard the laughter, and saw the smile on her approaching face that reflected my amazement at such an unexpected reunion. It was a smile that was so familiar.
I thought of the things to say to her. She'd lost weight, I'd comment on that. I had been under the impression she was working in Ottawa, I'd ask was she was doing in Toronto. She'd recently been married, I'd inquire about her husband's studies. So much to catch up on, so much to say.
All these thoughts, images, memories took place in the time span of seconds.
And then we were embracing. Right there on the street; two long separated friends, in each other's arms.
"You look great! What are you doing now? I heard you were in Asia. Are you married? Omigod! You've changed! You haven't changed at all! So good to see you! Want to grab a coffee?"
None of these things were said. As I embraced Rebecca, something clicked. At the very moment of reunion, we shifted gears and experienced a rare bizarre world moment.
"I have no idea who you are, do I?"
"I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else."
I stepped back and looked at a stranger. We were both embarrassed and confused. She wasn't Rebecca and I wasn't whoever she had thought I was. We both apologized, stumbled over words, and awkwardly went in opposite directions. As I walked away, I expected a trap door to open underneath and sweep me into another world. I didn't look back, although I wanted to, for fear that I might not see anyone there at all, that the whole encounter might have been a hallucination. I got no confirmation from anyone that I had been to The Twilight Zone, but I am quite certain that is where I went.