A Day of Ghosts
A dear friend of mine departed to move cross country today. We were once daily parts of each other's lives but we're not nearly that close anymore, having seen one another on only a half dozen occasions in the last year or so. Despite this I can't help but feel that there isn't a certain finality to today.
It is likely that we will never see one another again.
And so, I spend most of today thinking that, out of the corner of my eye, I see all my haven't-seen-since friends. Hey, that looks like Izzy, but she went off to be a third-world missionary a decade ago, married a UNICEF auditor and never came home. That's the same kind of car that my ex-girlfriend drove, but she totaled that car years ago. The voice chatting over my shoulder could be my favorite boss from my days in fine dining, but he got divorced, lost his citizenship, and had to move back to Switzerland when the president still had a middle initial. Passing in the street, a man has the same build, same gait, same combination of sunglasses and beaten baseball cap that were so distinctive on my college room mate, but that guy is much too young. That guy over there might be Kitten, but he turns around and I remember that Kitten has been buried and that's just someone with a similar taste in hairstyle.
There's all sorts of discourse, all manner of cultural artifacts about meeting people, about making friends and currying new relationships. There are self-help books, networking mixers, social media, gamified relationship apps for my smarter-than-I-need phone. The whole world seems crushing down with geologic force meant to press us into one another's company until all the billions are friends, though I don't know what that word would mean in such a situation.
We don't think or talk much about the people who walk out of our lives. I don't mean the people we've wronged, or been wronged by; I don't mean the people we've willfully discarded. I mean the people we've idly left behind: the coworker we never see once they've been transferred, the study buddy who falls from memory once we've graduated, the cousin we lose touch with once the family elders have passed, the moved away neighbor, the coffee shop chum, and the magnanimous lover that we just never talk to anymore.
There is no ritual, no customary set of gestures, no incantation to recognize the passing of a person out of our life, and perhaps there should be. Goodbyes are as important as hello's.