June 19, 2007

During the whole one year that I lived in my previous apartment, with the water-soaked, spongy paint job around the tub and the sheets hanging where doors should be, I kept to myself. Me, in my small white and brown box, much like a bunker, where the window was rarely opened except on the night I decided to make love most passionate, or where I learned the value of good rice over over-the-counter rice. While I lived there, I never ventured into the community that could have become of all the people living around me. There were lots of international students in that complex. Most notably is Key, who lived right below me.

Many nights, before she moved under me, I could see her husband swinging golf balls into a blanket drapped over the same doorless frame that was mimicked in my own apartment. He was calculated. The way his arm relaxed as he followed through, as though it struck fast, then wilted, or went slow-motion. He would do it in full dress, in his underwear; I think I even saw him do it naked once.

She played piano. They purchased a piano about a month after moving under me. It rested right against the outside wall, and I could see her play it when I peaked through their open window the hid behind the iron staircase on my way up to my apartment. Sometimes, late at night, long after dark, she would thunder a tune, some Liszt, some Brahms. A subtle, muffled dance hall from under my own floor.

I also lived next to a gentleman (well, two) that I have said three words to during the year I lived there and the half year since then. We would cross paths nearly daily, and more often than not, we’d avoid eye contact. Why? What a question!

However, one of them, the one with the beardish thing, is now employed where I work, just in a different department. Sunday, when I was on my way out at closing time, I stopped into the bathroom to take care of things. He pokes his head in, as is procedure, sees me, and we lock eyes.

Yes, there was the slightest pause in the air. I gave him a “Done soon.” He gave me a “We’re closing.” That was that. The last words we’ve said to each other, at least to this point.

So it occurs to me how odd it is that you could cross the paths of so many people during the day, and never say a thing to them. Even though I’ve not said anything to many of these people. I know lots about them. I know the guy with the long hair used to date the girl with the flower skirts. I know the guy with the lips works in the Counseling office, and we used to make fun of him for what he could do with those lips. I’ve often wondered if one guy was ever going to graduate, and then I saw him at graduation. Then there is Jim, who has gone to school with me for years, and works at the local convenience store.

“How ya doin’?” he says to me one night after many times of running into him. I’ve even spoken with him over email, as he is the president of the local Celtic organization.
“I’m good, you?”
“Doing good.” These odd, sporadic and unexpected conversations are very…uncomfortable, though I’ve been around them for years and years.
“You know, you and I had classes together.” No, we didn’t.
“Are you sure?”
“Yep, one or two.” No, zero is closer.
“Huh. I guess it slipped my mind.” No, it didn’t.

But, I do know that he’s a step dancer.


  1. It really is interesting how many people you re-encounter on a regular basis, but never form any actual acquaintanceship with. I can only think of one occasion on which one of those people ever introduced herself to me –a fellow bus-passenger. Apart from that, people seem to keep to themselves.

  2. I love crossing paths with people I’ve seen before. It’s interesting to see how they’ve changed. Maybe I’ll be one of those old ladies in the park, feeding pidgeons and take up people watching.

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