Before I get into a discussion of my trip to Paris, I have to tell you all about seeing my old neighbours on the street tonight.
I was leaving a Refine Method class and was headed for the Citibank on the corner across the street. I needed to get cash from the ATM for the manicure I was about to get, and ever since that NYTimes nail salon expose, I’ve developed a pathological Human Rights Watch guilt about my need to have Nails Like My Mother’s (who always has flawlessly manicured nails), so I wind up paying more in tips than for the actual manicure.
As I left the ATM lobby, I almost opened the door into a dog who had run far out ahead of his master on one of those retractable leashes. I instantly apologised to the owners, who in turn, apologised to me for their dog running ahead of them.
We are so sorry about that – Rex! Rex come here!
Then, almost immediately, the dog’s owners and I recognised each other.
Oh my gosh! Hello! How are you? Rex’s mom and dad and I had lived one floor apart in the same building for five years. I had been in Apartment 7G and they were below, in 6H. I hadn’t seen the couple since I had moved a few blocks away in November 2014.
I was thinking of the two of you recently! I exclaimed, We were just at at wedding in Johannesburg, and I thought about how you’d been married in Joburg right before I moved!
It was a weird thing to say, but it was true – not just one of those odd pleasantries one might blurt on the street when bumping into someone unexpectedly. (Have you ever noticed the odd shit you say to people when they take you by surprise? That’s another post for another time). They were South African, and I really HAD thought of them when Paul, eee, E, and I had travelled earlier in the month. I had thought about their wedding, of which I had seen photos, when we’d been at PG and Ally’s wedding in South Africa. So we stood and talked for a few moments, reminiscing about their dog who was now deceased who had been so nasty to other dogs but had adored Roo. Roo had adored her too. She was 15 when we moved, and she’d only passed last summer.
It’s funny, I remarked, I never made the connection, but now Roo’s best friend is a Wheaton just like Reagan was.
We laughed, and chatted for a few more moments, before we hugged goodbye, and they walked away down First Avenue. I went home to walk Roo, and to think fondly about my old building and the neighbours that I loved. I was so distracted by the meeting that I completely forgot to stop for my manicure on the way home.
It was then that it dawned on me that I had known these people for seven years – during five of which I saw them basically every day – and had had so many lovely interactions with them, and yet had absolutely no idea what their names were. I knew their dog’s name – I could even remember their dead dog’s name – I even knew their address, but I had literally never learned their names, and I was pretty sure they didn’t know mine either.
New York City is funny like that – we all live alone and on top of one another. Someone from Somewhere Else will ask you Hey, you live in New York, do you think you know my cousin?! And you’ll scoff because this is a city of tens of millions, and then that Someone will drop a name and you’ll realise it’s a coworker of yours. It’s a city of coincidences, and near-misses, and second chances, and wonderful moments of kismet.
But no matter how on top of one another we all live, no matter how serendipitous our meetings, there is this weird universal truth amongst dog people, and that is, nobody will ever learn your name. You just have to accept that from the moment you bring that squirming bundle of fur home, you’re forevermore going to be Roo’s Mom.