“I Still Look for Her in Crowds”
19 July 1996
As the years begin to pile up, now and again, I begin to think of all those people I have met or known, ever so slightly. The Italian co-worker who rebuilt antique cars, only married women with the first names beginning with the letter "M" (at least 3 while I worked with him) and who once designed automotive engine heads for Detroit. The room mate who had a blood brother who was 20 years older than he was, never owned a toothbrush (borrowed one from his roommates after the lights were turned out for the night) and who was a brilliant economist. The beautiful, divorced or separated (never knew which) secretary who had really bad taste in picking male friends and who had some dark secret in her past, I never learned about. Eddie Spitler and Joey Bradshaw who I spent 4 long days hiking the Appalachian Trail with when I was only 14 years of age. The social worker who worked with abused children everyday, only ate baked potato's as if anything other than a potato would be decadent and who went on to get married to society and have 3 sons. Faces and names but I wonder where they are now and how they are? And why did I not take the time, and more of an interest in them, to get closer to them at the time we shared the same spaces? Perhaps I was borne shy or withdrawn or perhaps I was borne with some secret and was afraid that "they" would find out. I wish now, I had taken more time and smiled more.
Oh, I could and can, talk with just about everyone. I learned a long time ago, that everyone likes to talk about themselves and so I became and am, a good interviewer. At parties, I can meet strangers and question them and get them to talk for hours about themselves and then on the way home they realize, or so I often fantasize, they have no clue who that person was they were talking to and I take some sort of pleasure in being "invisible". And I wonder if in my own way, I did and do, become close to others although not in a way I seem satisfied with now, today.
The minister and the physicist and the afternoons I spent being middle man between these two co-workers and the philosophical worlds we explored and then moved on and the quiet engineers I met, younger than me, who could have used a friend.
And as I think of all those people, men and women, I wonder now what I am feeling I lost or did not get from them? We were all in motion, moving through our lives and careers and perhaps knew at the time, there was not time for closer ties.
The captain in the army who loved art and who could hold an egg in his hand an marvel at its shape and then pile randomly selected rocks on top of each other in a way that was as perfect in form or integration as that egg. And for a while after we separated, I wrote letters to him and would even telephone him or he me but over time contact was lost and now he is just a memory and I have a hollow feeling.
And if I have known or met a lot of people in my life's travels or so I think, every time I go to a concert or am in a large group or crowd, I marvel at how few people I have actually met, much less gotten to know. Some many souls. Some many interesting lives and stories and I wish I could speak with them all. Ask them all questions and learn of their lives and yet, I would never allow them to know me.
Perhaps I have nothing to tell and know it. Perhaps, if I questioned, interviewed, myself, I would not find very much to be interested in.
The son of a successful and famous Dallas psychiatrist who was an engineer but not much liking it as if he was failure in his father's eyes and thus his own. The waitress who raised 300 guinea pigs, was now divorced from her army husband and who at 30 had just registered for veterinarian school. The retired old man from Wyoming who was riding around the country on a motorcycle seeing sites he had always wanted to see and who had a smile I think you can only get when you feel completely free of bonds and requirements.
Why am I sad? Am I sad or is it some other feeling I am experiencing new and can not yet stick an established label on? What do I think I have missed?
The uncle who was and is the master carpenter. My father who was a reincarnated American Indian in love of the woods and hunting. The computer professor from Egypt who I spent afternoons with talking about his homeland and how his father had been a rug merchant. Souls in the same orbit or life motion as I for at least a little while and then gone. And I wonder if I did actually meet them or rather they were simply in some dream I had?
The genius laser specialist who had an affair with the tall dumb blonde secretary and who later moved to Vermont to raise chickens. My alcoholic grandfather who at 65 could still out work any one I have ever met and who could talk politics as well as any television talking head.
I can not help but think of herds of animals or all those birds sitting on a telephone wire. For a brief moment, we were there on that wire, running in the herd from the beasts, sharing the same watering hole and yet, some aspect of their soul invaded me and will not let me go. Perhaps it is nothing more than the spiritual desire for a tighter unit, for a closer integration.
Once, long ago, under the influence of psychoactive drugs, I thought I could hear the thoughts of others and they my thoughts and it was terrible. No room to hide, no way to lie and although I had thought that this would be union, heaven, I found it not to be so or not in the manner I seem to be trying to define now. Or perhaps this is union? A union so tight that it keeps folks from entering heaven?
The Middle Eastern mechanic I stumbled on to one day who helped me diagnose an car engine problem and although I went to see him several times thereafter with problems, never charged me a cent and was always helpful and smiling. The girl I met when I was 14 on a trip with my parents who would not let me sleep for days because I had fallen in love with her instantly but was too shy to tell her so.
Perhaps I am not sad at all but rather feeling a new form of happy because as I think about all the folks I have known, I detect feelings of happiness, to have met all these souls and at least for a little while, shared the same time and space.
They say "birds of a feather, flock together" and so I wonder if all the folks I have met are like me in feather? Was or is it Karma? Am I "programmed" to only meet certain people? People who have something to teach me, to challenge me, to test me?
The fellow army officer who could only talk with you if his face was a foot or less from your face and who knew, at age 26, more about auto mechanics and cameras and photography than I will ever know and who's father owned the largest plumbing supply company in Minneapolis. The retired house mover who became a house mover because as a child he was watching a house be moved and the moving foreman handed a rope to him and had him pull an entire house. The Washington Post reporter who really was a musician and who moved off the Nashville to write a rock opera. The Navy Academy graduate who once flew fighter planes, made video documentaries for the Public Broadcasting Service and who is now an alcoholic and crack cocaine user with some unknown demon on his back.
And I think of clouds or a stand of trees on a bluff overlooking a stream and wonder how different all the folks I have met are from clouds or that stand of trees. The flow of life through each is the same somehow and yes, I am happy to have met them and known something of their lives and I wonder what, if anything, I brought to them?
I used to think that one of the roles I was to have or play in this life was "example". I have always thought of myself as honest and moral and with the God given gift to sort the wheat from the chaff and now I wonder if anyone actually perceived this and learned from it? I can not say that I see much effect on my own children, or at least not so far.
Amazed and happy. So many souls with amazing stories or lives. How lucky I have been to have met them all. And thinking about it now, perhaps my feelings of sadness comes from some feeling that perhaps they gave me more than I ever gave them. Could this be so?
The brother, who as a child, fished in mud holes created in our front yard after a hard rain and who always caught fish, at least in his mind. The lady who, without a college degree and no husband, raised three daughters and raised herself up to be the head of a 10 million dollar business, only to lose it because to her, style was everything.
And I wonder what has evoked this look to the past? Some scheduled time to review and adjust for the future? Some feelings of remorse about my standoffishness? And I still wonder why I think I could have gotten closer to all these people?
One line of thought about heaven says that in heaven, one gives up his or her identity to merge with all other spirits and this then is the grand union, the feeling of closeness which can not be obtained here in this plane of existence, this earth, space and time and perhaps I believe and long for the union. And another thought in physics has everything we know of or see or can touch exists as energy in some stable state and that everything is connected to everything else by the pull and push of forces we cannot see or understand and perhaps this too I believe or even know, deep inside my mind's gut and I want to cross some boundary and touch and be touched more deeply that in the past.
The middle ages scholar who lives around the corner and who keeps herself busy to stave off depression. The mild mannered author of children's books who also developed devices to navigate on the stars and my own children, all different and swimming in the same ocean as me and yet each a different species.
Souls in orbits or on some vector and for a little while, me and them, in parallel tracks and able to communicate, to report to each other of what we have seen and heard and learned and then move away from each other in our new and different trajectories.
A cousin, who at 19, was told she could never have any children of her own but who later married 3 and now has 4 grandchildren and a big, giving smile. The teacher who looked at me, saw me and asked me questions he did not know the answer to. The gentle giant of a manager I once had, who I found out only years after parting orbit with him, drown while trying to save a little boy from a raging ocean. Just souls rubbing together for a little while and then gone.
Years ago, when a newly discovered comet came to visit our solar system, I got the idea for a special party and invited all the people I had ever met but no one came. I want to say it was the theme of the party which kept them away, but thinking about it now, our orbits where just too different.
I do not know if there is a heaven or a hell but if there is a heaven and I make it there, I sure hope I get to see all those faces and smiles and lives again, if not just for a little while. Until then, I will continue to look for "her" in crowds.