And she was gone. I looked around at the end of the event to the seat I had seen her take, only to find it drawn up to the table. In the coffee break before she had been cloistered in a conversation too close to contravene. And before that just as I was about to turn to talk to her – she was sat behind me – someone else rudely started talking to me.
I should explain. A couple of months earlier I met this girl, we sat next to each other at dinner, I’m sure I insulted her in my efforts to be witty. Sometimes when you’re in a crowded room and you take a seat at a table occupied only by strangers you can draw the short straw. You listen in to the fun conversations at the table next to you and grow as green with envy as the fresh baby spinach served as an accompaniment to your starter.
Maybe that’s how our neighbours felt that evening – for it was one of the best I have had in quite a while. The chat flowed, shifted and swayed, topics of conversation chopped and changed, overlapped and looped back. Having to listen to speeches, even when they are better than the usual fare, was an unwelcome interruption.
The evening stretched on, we danced (and sweated), we talked some more. The lady, who I had not met until a few hours before, was culpable for this outbreak of enjoyment. I was captivated.
And then it was over. Without any realistic prospect of seeing her again I left. There was no obvious point of contact, our degrees of separation were about as distant as it comes in the Christian world. It took friends of friends’ friends and an inappropriate amount of time to find her on Facebook, and then I did nothing but wait too long to add her as a friend or send a wee message. She was not only distant in connections, but in geography as well. For all it mattered she could have been in Qatar.
Until a few days ago when I walked into a room and she was there.
It was always a possibility she would be at the event, I won’t pretend I hadn’t considered the plausibility of meeting her, but it was still a surprise. But it wasn’t a surprise I handled well. I wasn’t with it, I wasn’t expecting to talk to her, I garbled something, and then we both sat down in our respective places. For the next few hours I wanted a chance to rectify my poor impression, find a way of orchestrating something, a something which by some means I could then pursue.
And now distant-girl is gone again. Like before, no prospect of seeing her again; like before, no appropriate more-or-less immediate Facebook follow-up (it now being too late and borderline weird).
This girl who struck me so forcefully, who I do not really know, with whom I had such a great time, is nothing but an enigma lurking on the precipice of my awareness. Offering the possibility of something mediated through the uncertainty of first impressions, dashed by second chances and left to drift away.
What do I do? Do I send a message out of the blue, add her as a friend on Facebook, and then what? Do I take the tenuous route through friends of friends? Do I let it go, confident that nothing so fleeting could lead to anything more?