The versions of ourselves that stay with others

I read in a book once that when a person in your life passes away, a part of you passes away as well because the person you were with them ceases to exist. There is no one left to remember you in that particular way. People don’t have to pass away for this to happen. It happens when an old friend drifts away or even the fleeting encounters we have with strangers. I can think of two examples.

One is an amazing friend I stopped seeing after he moved far away. It was always platonic between us, and I joked that if I ever became president, I would have to marry him or shut him up some other way because no one has as much dirt on me as he. I’d get a text from him on Thursday nights to see if I wanted to go to a gay bear/leather bar with him. Thursdays being my concert days, I would text back that I would call him as soon as the concert was over. And there I went after a Thursday night at the opera or the symphony to go to a bar together and stay out way past midnight. We’d look for restaurants that would still be open after the bars closed. After a performance, rushing home to get ready for the bars no longer crosses my mind. I can’t imagine staying out past midnight. That part of me ceased to exist once Kevin left. I remember I cried when my dear friend told me he would be moving to another city.

The other is the best friend I’ve ever had. We tried so many restaurants together, raced together, and traveled to different cities chasing the next marathon. She would sneak in whoppers into the movies because she knew they were my favorite. She put up with my overly smiley self whenever I ordered the wine pairings at practically every new restaurant we tried. There are so many things I am grateful to her for, but we had a falling out where the distance grew slowly until things became irreparable. This one still hurts when I think back on the memories. That part of me, too is long gone, but I will always be grateful for her friendship and for who I was with her.

So with strangers, I treasure the anonymity and the clean slate. All that matters is the present moment. You can strike up a conversation with someone at a performance. You can marvel over the same painting. Next, you’re making small talk as if you will see this person again tomorrow and forget that the time on your impromptu friendship is slipping away. When the time finally expires, you say goodbye and go your separate ways. I don’t say anything further, but in my mind, I thank them for introducing me to a part of myself I had not yet met.