Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Missed Connections

A few weeks ago I was introduced to the charming work of illustrator Sophie Blackall who was inspired by the stories suggested in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist.

If you haven't heard about Missed Connections, it is where people post a note in an effort to try to connect with someone, either because they were too shy or tongue-tied to speak to the person directly, or else their meeting was a random encounter and they don't know how to find the person again. In any case, there is something tremendously romantic about the notion that a chance encounter could possibly, irrevocably change the course of your life.

It got me thinking about my missed connection moments. Here are some of them:

Caught in the Brioche
Bakery Section, Carrefour Calle 80 Bogotá
The fresh brioche was still warm. I lifted one up, shut my eyes and breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of butter and crystallized fruit. As I opened my eyes, a tall very French-looking man, gray around the temples, wearing a flour-dusted apron, came out of the back of the store. He stopped suddenly and stared at me as I stood there with my nose in the pastry. I blushed deeply, hurriedly put the brioche into my shopping cart and wheeled away, feeling his eyes on the back of my neck. I was too embarrassed and unprepared to say anything… but I wish that I had.

Skateboard on a Bike
Maxi Pointe-Claire
While picking up groceries at Maxi in Pointe-Claire I saw the skateboards. William wanted a skateboard for his birthday. I looked at the contents of my cart and did a quick calculation: I should be able to pack everything on my bike, the heavy things like milk, fruit and vegetables in the front basket, and the bulkier items like cereal, bread, pasta on the back carrier rack. Plus a skateboard. I paid for my purchases, wheeled out the grocery cart, and unlocked the bike in preparation for loading. Tetrising the bags onto the bike as it leaned against the bike rack, it was a precarious arrangement. As I was affixing the packages on the back with a bungie cord, the front wheel twisted and the bike toppled over. A gentleman, who had apparently been observing this magnificent feat of urban transport engineering, came over and helped me pick up the bike. Nothing was injured except my dignity. I could see that he was hesitating, not know whether to offer to help transport my cargo or what. But he had no idea how far I was going, and my bike probably wouldn't fit into his car, and I wouldn't get into a car with a strange man in a parking lot anyhow. Still, it was a moment. I thanked him. I got on my bike and road off over the St. John's Road overpass.

National University of Colombia, Bogotá
The Saturday morning that I went to pick up my son from his art class at the National University, I spoke to the teacher about what sort of techniques the kids would be exploring. He was about 15 years younger than me, very nice looking, enthusiastic about the class and kids. As he spoke I found myself staring into his eyes. I felt his words brushing my eyelids, whispering down the sides of my face, pooling in the hollow at the base of my neck where the collarbones meet, spilling out and over, and running down between my breasts, coming to rest by the knot that had formed in my stomach. His last name was Tehran. I don't remember his first name. I can't remember a thing he said. During the subsequent weeks my ex-husband picked up William after art class. It would have been awkward for both of us to turn up.

Lost in Translation
West Island YMCA, Pointe-Claire
I had noticed that the enthusiastic, bald man hadn't been coming to step class. He is noticeable. Hardly any men do the step class and he is always very vocal. When the instructor asks if we are feeling good, he is the one who always answers with a rousing "Yeah!" So on the day I saw him, I said hi and that I had noticed that he hadn't been at the gym lately. He told me that he had been away on business in Tokyo, and that this was part of an ongoing project for business development and technology transfer, and that he had made quite few trips there, etc. He was quite chatty. "Lost in translation" was my first thought but I didn't manage to get the words out of my mouth. I should have said it, and then segued into the fact that translation is my field and that eventually technology will replace me, and that I have never been to Asia but have travelled all over South America and lived there for many years, but I couldn't find any words. I felt like an idiot and he must have thought that I was a pleasant-enough-but-slightly-dimwitted-jock. I do have words. Really, I do.

What is nice about the memories, these moments, is that they are the first paragraphs about lives that could have been. Who knows what might have come of these encounters? Maybe nothing. We never got to be point of discovering inconvenient details like the fact that the object of attention might be married, or not interested, or unavailable for a multitude of reasons. Maybe the story might have flourished, in which case it wouldn't be "a moment"; it would more properly be called "my life."

Any Moment/Moments in the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.

"Oh. if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one."