It is a particular oddity, this business of returning to one's previous home. All kinds of observations and issues arise. Sometimes it's as if you willed them to. Case in point: this morning I found myself with some lovely down time and decided to re-visit a neighborhood where I once lived. Given there is a new coffee place with large comfortable seating and wifi, this was going to be just what I need before the long trip back to Portland.
While there, I began to notice some only in Berkeley experiences. Oh, I'm not saying they couldn't happen anywhere else, it's just that in the East Bay, they seem to happen simultaneously. Coffeehouses seem to be the great equalizer as people stumble in and out for their jump starter jolt of caffeine. This time I hear languages..for spoken in various corners of the room. Italian, French, Eritrean, Spanish...I guess English makes five. If I wanted to get technical, there are various strains of English spoken here too. And this this singular experience.
I look up and see a face I recognize. It's an old lover who still lives in the neighborhood, apparently. She was a few years older than I back in the 80s when we wrapped our lives around the silly notion that we would be in them forever. At first she appears as one of those age enhanced photos that law enforcement uses for missing persons. It has been 30 years and she still looks pretty good. Of course her face has not cooperated with any of the wrinkle-free applications it must have endured, but I like that. These are personal tattoos, of a sort and they bring character...hopefully. I decide to let her recognize me and give what I think is ample opportunity to do so. She never sees me. A fitting metaphor that makes me smile. I feel strangely liberated from the conversation that might have happened. I really don't want to see and know any more. What remains is how stressed out she appears. Maybe she's selling real estate now or something and is hoping to make some sort of quota. Maybe she's rushing off to meet someone new or break up with someone old. There appears to be a ring on her left hand, but that means nothing any more. I peruse all the details: the hair color, the make up, the figure...just noticing that the years have been kind in many ways. And then she vanishes.
An hour later I wonder; what if it wasn't she? What if I conjured up this recognition? That certainly explains why she never noticed me, never made eye contact because there was nobody around to recognize. But a moment later... I know who I saw.