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June 21, 2001

"Of all the people,
you are one of the ones I wonder about."

We were walking down Mission Street after Moulin Rouge (not the absinthe-laced free-for-all some reviewers seemed to think it was but nevertheless a riot of sound and color nicely flavored with love and tragedy), when someone behind us called my name. Called it three times before I figured out the voice might be addressing me.

It turned out to be one of those movie-moments that never happen to real people: time and distance fade to nothing, and someone from the past recognizes your present self. In this case, it was eighty miles on the map, eight years, and all the intervening experiences that separate me from my high-school self that suddenly disappeared and left me shocked, staring into the film of Time sprung from its sprockets. The man standing in front of me had black hair, wore a blue denim shirt with his company's logo embroidered between his sholder blades. If I shook my head, he was blond, with longer hair, black Doc Martin's laced midway up his calves, wearing a Depeche Mode "Violator" t-shirt so faded the rose had lost it's shape. We had gone to high school together, endured the same AP courses, and gone our separate ways after graduation. Now, to the amusement of Coincidence and Fate, here we were, on Mission at midnight, suddenly faced with Time, Change, Memory. If we hadn't been the last people out of the Metreon, routed out of the last unlocked door, the one farthest away from the car, our paths would never have crossed. What's stranger, that we met at all or that we nearly passed each other by, separated by a single San Francisco block?

The whole experience rendered me simultaneously wordless and over-effusive. I seemed to be much louder than usual, my laughter a little crazy. There were the usual questions: "What are you doing now?" "How have you been?" And I seemed to have nothing to say, to say things wrong. I tripped over my tongue, my vocabulary vaporized. If I could look at this man and see his current self fading in and out of his high-school self, what could he possibly be seeing when he looked at me? I was in jeans and well-scuffed boots, my hair is shorter, I am more traveled; did he see the present me or the fading perm, the long skirts, the load of books I seem to remember carrying, the GPA I probably wore stamped into my forehead?

A friend of mine last weekend pointed out that I am far happier these days than I used to be. I have stopped trying to be the person I thought everyone wanted me to be and have concentrated on discovering what I want to be. When I was younger, I once asked my mother if I was happy, sure that I didn't know what "happy" felt like. Now, having given up on defining my happiness based on the number of smiles and praises directed toward me by other people, I don't have to ask anymore.

It makes for complicated conversation. I have no easy, resume-ready responses to the usual questions that come up when randomly encountering people from the past. Nothing quick and easy seems accurate; no one really has time, or the interest I'm sure, for the longer version. Anything brief seems to leave something out, and I fear upsetting any of my capricious muses.

I need a title. A job description. Something that sounds official, something to say in the face of expectations that I am busy, employed, successful. Something that doesn't sound like a list of hobbies, despite the fact that I am a more interesting someone due to my varigated list than someone who simply defines herself by job title. Still, "One - who - can't - stand - pointless - office - jobs - and - so - has - abandoned - corporate - life - in - favor - of - words - pens - knots - design - quilts - art - websites - cloaks - plants - books - and - the - occasional - pastry" is a bit of a mouthful. I'll never remember all that, not for the times when I'll need it most, among strangers, over cocktails, or flustered by sudden midnight encounters with the Past.