Running into Strangers

(j. prince)

Brandi lives in exile in Virginia. I always tease her about moving back to Stumptown someday. She came in town last weekend for a family event and we had a chance to catch up over black beans and rice on Ponce de Leon Ave.

“Do you run into people from high school a lot?” she asked. Like this is a major consideration when choosing a state of residence.

“Oh no, not really,” I said. “But I do keep in touch with a few people from high school and I see them.”
The real answer to this question is yes. I run into new friends and old strangers so much I hardly notice. Brandi's husband and I went to high school together. I was raised around here. I went to college here. And church. And I married someone from high school and our parents went to the same high school. and our brothers and sisters. You can see how it starts to feel like a very small town, especially if you set foot in a mall or a Wal-Mart. Worlds collide.

For some reason I said, “I don’t really run into anybody. I just go to work and to church and that's it.”

This afternoon I got an invitation to a baby shower for an old girlfriend from high school. Further back, in fact. Nikki and I met in kindergarten and even our Dads were boyhood pals. I didn’t recognize her married name in the return address, but I remembered the blue handwriting on the envelope. (At what age do you study your friends’ penmanship and practice your coolest handwriting? 6th grade? I bet its not just the future typography freaks that do this.)

I last spoke with Nikki at our high school reunion. And before that, it was maybe 6 or 7 years since we talked and even longer since we had anything in common. The invitation struck me as a shameless request for gifts. I tossed it in the trash before it the guilt could set in, but it was too late. I tapped coffee grounds on it, covered it with lemon rinds and soggy paper towels.



i got drunk a year ago and announced at my friend's elaborate wedding shower (one of maybe ten) that i "was not gonna buy anyone another freakin wedding present. in fact, i'm about to throw myself my own freakin 'me' shower, celebrating the awesomeness of grier!" everyone laughed, but i sensed an undercurrent of unease.

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