There are a lot of people walking around in the world. So many people. It's amazing we can even take note of a few. Even in the hospital I work in I am sure I wouldn't recognize 80% if I saw them out of context.
Which is why it is always fascinating to me when a total stranger becomes notable, when a human is suddenly more visible than all the other humans swarming in the sea of humans.
And then there are the ones that I never really get to know. You know what I mean: you exchange pleasantries, stories, learn little things about them. You compliment their shoes, ask them about their dog. You, for some reason, see them around, but might never even learn their last name.
In San Francisco I had this guy, Ivan, that I saw almost every single day. I have absolutely no idea what Ivan did for a living, or where he lived. If he was married, single, a father, a religious man. No idea. But I saw him every day and sometimes we'd say hi and once I saw him several times a day and he assured me he was not following me. And then one day I just stopped seeing him. For a while that concerned me. I don't know why. I don't have any idea who that guy was, but he had become a familiar face, and then suddenly our orbits changed. Or he moved. Or he hurt himself. I'll never know. I'd have no reason to know.
And I wonder sometimes: were there other people I saw just as often, but for some reason didn't take note of? I mean, Ivan and I must have had similar commutes or liked the same places or something that made us cross paths so much. But others must have shared similar proclivities. Was it truly frequency or are there some people that just color the landscape a little more brightly for you? Is there something that makes your imagination wander just a bit more?
Again. I have no idea.
A month or two ago I was walking to meet some friends and someone I worked with hailed me from his doorstep, asked if I worked where I worked. He worked in a completely different department. I passed him frequently but we never interacted. I walked up and we started a conversation. There were...interesting things about him, or the kind of things that tend to capture my imagination. Music. Pets. Whatever. Just the stuff I like. Stuff that made me think he would be someone I, or my friends, might like. And so he became one of my "familiar faces" I see constantly. We talked. I knew a bit about him. Not much. Just enough to make him stand out just that much more. Certainly not enough to take it even a little personally when the email came out today to announce to our workforce at large that he had died on Monday. On some level I wasn't even sure I had a right to feel more than abstractly sad.
But it did make me sad. One less interesting face in a sea of forgettable madness. One person I am bound to question if I truly missed the boat or the bullet in having known them better.
A very specific person I am sure much more specific people are truly feeling a gaping hole of loss around right now.
The world is a big place. But I've always suspected that each and every person we can relate can make it seem that much smaller, that much warmer and that much more intimate.
Selfishly that is all I have to add to his passing, other than it is sad when people lose people. In any given way.