It’s funny how there are pieces of people that stay with you forever, even if the actual people don’t. You can go years without seeing someone, or even talking to them, but all it takes is a smell or a taste or a song—and they’re figuratively next to you, live, in color, in the flesh, dimples flashing.
Even more bizarre is how the current people who occupy your time, your present, can literally be next to you and yet not affect you at all. How can there be some people who don’t leave behind any pieces whatsoever? Were they not supposed to be in your life at all? Or is everyone meant to have these meaningless, vanilla time-fillers? And in that case, is everyone also meant to be someone else’s meaningless, vanilla time-filler? I guess it’s acceptable for the acquaintances that you see every so often, the friends of friends, the distant relatives, the people you ask the same questions to and vice versa every single time: “How are you? How’s teaching? How’s the love life, eh?”
But I hope to God that I never leave someone—someone of more importance than an acquaintance—mark-less, 100% unscathed by my presence in any way, good or bad. How tragic and boring, to never be thought of at all, ever, even if it’s just once in 20 years, when an old friend makes a disaster of mashed potatoes, walks by a person wearing a certain perfume, or sees someone with that same awful haircut that you had that one year…
I guess it’s more depressing to think of this happening with someone you’ve dated. And I can definitely think of people who I’ve dated and “dated” who won’t ever be crossing my mind, unless I’m writing about people who never cross my mind. Sucks to be you. But is it their fault, or mine? I of course want to say that it’s theirs—they should have been more interesting, funny, smart, gentlemanly, etc. They should have stuck around longer. They should have been more memorable, right? Or maybe I just didn’t give them a chance to be those things. Or maybe they were those things, and I didn’t notice or want to notice or care to notice.
We see what we want to see, right? I mean, if you want to hate someone, you connect them in your mind with petty or horrible shit. Bad memories, fighting, yelling, crying, lying. I had plenty of that with a certain ex, but instead, I think of him every single time I eat a cupcake, pick out a Halloween costume, go bowling, see a pair of incredibly blue eyes, or drink Dr. Pepper.
I think of my best friend Johanna every single time I hear any Ben Folds or Jack’s Mannequin, any time someone references Aggies, debate, Nicaragua, or little brothers, and any time I see someone with a huge, happy smile.
I think of my mom every time I eat spaghetti, every time people talk about role models or single-parent-stronger-than-steel-support-systems, and every time I see blue eyeshadow.
I think of my dad every time I see a magic trick, a gun, or a Santa, every time people talk about Texans, every time I eat a steak, and every time I really need a hug.
Every TV show or movie I watch is connected to someone. Every band, every song, every meal I cook, every outfit I wear, every restaurant I go to… The mind is a crazy gadget. Every time I drink tea—Grandma. Every time I smell a pipe—Papa. Every time I eat hummus—my roommate Leslie. There’s not much that my brain doesn’t associate to someone I care about.
I guess the real question I have is: when you reach a certain number of things that remind you of a specific person, does that mean that they should still be in your life? I mean, once you get to a certain point, and you realize that the smallest, most random things remind you of this person from your past, are you supposed to just keep living without them? Are you supposed to wait for it to completely go away? What if it never does? How often is “too” often for someone to pass through your mind? And for that matter, when you find yourself never thinking of a person, is that reasonable cause to drop them entirely? If you only think of that person when you’re in their presence, is that acceptable?
Oops, that was more than one question.
Let me try to nutshell these thoughts. I know that it’s normal to have silly, sporadic moments where an image of someone plasters itself to every inch of you. It’s like someone is drawing from a hat of your past and present relationships (platonic and otherwise) and then flinging the chosen photo down on your day when you least expect it. But I feel like this can’t ALL be purely coincidence via memory—I feel like at some point, life must just be telling you that this person is stuck to your heart for a reason. Especially when those everyday things (banana split ice cream, that one scar, that one expression) that they’re, for some reason or another, sprinkled on top of are happy, funny, loving, meaningful, or delicious.