Haven't we met? If not, we will.
Yesterday, the universe poked me. Hard.
For the purpose of learning from the experience, and sharing it with you, I'll pretend I believe that the universe is a will-exercising entity. A sexy one with a sense of humour, and a penchant for reminding us that Earth plays but a teeny, yet scandalous, role in the Big Picture.
The day ended with the full moon eyeballing me all the walk home, and with me concluding that the more I travel, and the more I talk to strangers, the more I think there are few true strangers left. I bet I know someone you know. Don't believe anything they say about me.
The day began as any muggy Montreal summer day should, at the city pool with friends, and beer. Cheap, watery, cold, cold beer. We mused that regardless of how few rules there may be in any given situation, we always manage to bend them. If my travels in Mexico have taught me anything, it's that when no one stops you from doing what you like, it's as good as having permission. If my travels in Germany have taught me anything, it's that I definitely don't belong there.
We were already questioning why we hadn't brought more beer, apologizing for nearly hitting a man in the head with a flutterboard, and mocking the sleazy guy who loitered next to the change room, when my friend Leigh's newest ally arrived to meet us. I'd met her before, when we were performers in the same arty burlesque show, but we'd never been in a position to chat. She's a sickeningly talented young painter, and she'd come to photograph Leigh. Allow me a moment to temper my jealousy. Ahem. There.
My mind must've been playing some sort of subconscious matching game all day, fitting things she'd said to dusty, old scrapbook snippets of memory, and when we left the pool together in search of delicious snacks and more beer, I suddenly remembered her from thirteen years ago. And more, her older brother.
More than 1200 km from here, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we were both visiting at the time, I somehow managed to land an invitation to lunch with him, and his entire family. "You were more of a hippie back then," said the painter. I cringed, but didn't argue. We've all made our mistakes.
I can't remember for how long we kept it up, or why we stopped, but it was with her brother that I learned to flirt by mail, at the tender, confused age of sixteen – a primitive version of what I'm doing now with Mr. England. His letters were beautiful, and it's no surprise to me that he majored in Creative Writing, or that he's now living in Prague with his Czech girlfriend, with whom he nurtured a similar, but more advanced relationship-by-mail. It's nice to know it can work.
All that was established before we even ordered our delicious nachos. While still marvelling at the coincidence, my friend pointed out the restaurant window and interrupted to say, "Hey, don't you know that guy?" Pretending to read Timothy Findley, on a balcony across the street, was a favourite friend I hadn't seen since he abandoned ship for Scandinavia last year. I ran out the door, up the stairs to his new apartment, and welcomed him home. He'd returned just a day earlier, and was still wobbly on his Swede legs, so we invited him to join us for beer in the park next to Leonard Cohen's house. This is Montreal, after all.
Not an hour into bending public consumption laws, a random punk busker asked my friend for a light, in exchange for a song on his fiddle, and also joined us. "In a culture like Sweden's, there ARE no winners!" My friend was complaining to me about his basketball league's reluctance to keep score, when Leigh yelled at the punk, "Oh, YOU'RE the fiddle player!" That was the third and final coincidence of the day. The fiddler had met Leigh's musician boyfriend at a gig in Toronto a month earlier, where they'd talked about collaborating.
These were much happier coincidences than the one that has my ex-boyfriend living across the street from me, or the one that made my Argentine boyfriend sleep with the very same Swedish girl I knew from Mexico long ago, or the one that had me realizing that, of all possible Mikes, I'd just made out with one my friend had a crush on, or even the coincidence that had my sister's ex-husband waking up at a close friend's little sister's place right at the moment we decided to call her. Whoever said "honesty is the best policy" must've known that the world is far too teeny to allow you to get away with anything anyway.
Of everything I could possibly conclude from this day of coincidences, I've decided to conclude the following: It's the universe that's absurd, not me, and there are stranger ways to meet someone than on Facebook. So, I'm done making excuses for how I've met Mr. England, and more into celebrating that I have.