Life is messy and painfully beautiful, sharp lines and soft finishes that sometimes blur together in an abstract shape that we can’t quite pull apart to see what lies beneath.
Someone recently committed suicide and people thought it was me.
It wasn’t me, obviously, but reading her obituary, we shared an alarming number of similarities. I would have thought it was me, too, in those first few jumbled hours afterward of mixed reports and half-truths. It wasn’t me, and I didn’t know her. Around the time she was leaving this Earth, I was grocery shopping and contemplating whether to give in to toddler demands for a lollipop to achieve a moment’s peace. This is a small city, and I have a foggy memory of meeting her once in that same grocery store, saying, “Oh, I’ll never forget your name.” But I did. Because that’s what we do.
How many times have we intersected with someone and then never seen them again? I have this vague memory of meeting her near the seafood section of that grocery store, but I forgot her name, though I said I never would, and to my knowledge, we never crossed paths again. With our many commonalities, I suspect that had it been me, she would have also conjured that same hazy memory of meeting me near the crustaceans.
We’re all so busy that we meet people, share a few moments of connection, and then go our merry way again. I recently met a woman in that same grocery store (I go through an insane amount of milk) who was, to put it mildly, absolutely off-her-rocker inebriated. She was obsessed with my twins and told me over and over again how much she wants to hang out, that we were destined to be “best friends.” I gave her my number and spelled my name a few times, but saw that she saved it as something starting with a W. So I quickly moved on from my new bestie whom I knew I would never hear from again. I actually doubt, in this instance, that she will ever remember having met me. Looking at her phone through a pounding headache the next morning, I am sure she deleted her bestie W from her contact list.
It’s not just the drunken besties that we lose, slipping through our loosely-held, muddy-colored lens of life. We have genuine friends that fade away. We have a fight, and it never gets truly resolved. Or maybe nothing happened, but we moved away and had kids, and suddenly we don’t know them anymore and forget to even really think about them until a harsh slap of reality in the form of tragedy knocks us upside the head. We knew them once, but life took them away.
I didn’t know the woman who committed suicide and it’s not my story, but the desperation that she must have felt in those last few minutes of her life slices through me.
She must have felt so alone. In a society where we are almost always surrounded by others (except recently of course), how do we get to feel so alone? Loneliness has texture and weight, and it can pull us down underneath the water of life to drown. We’re busy and we’re tired and we’re pulled in so many directions, but the next time you meet someone who is a lot like you and tell her that you’ll “never forget her name,” please do your best to remember it.
None of us want to be forgotten.