I've been thinking a lot lately about some people whose names and faces I can't quite remember.
There's the guy who lived down the street from my parents, a blue-collar worker who walked up to a sullen kid whose hands were in his pockets (okay, it was me) and ever-so-casually lifted the kid's right hand out of his pocket to shake his own hand like a man.
There's the beautiful young woman from my first office job who wore a red dress on Valentine's day, earning the derision of every other woman in the department, something that astounded me since she was as pure and nice as a person could be.
There's the older science fiction who took me aside and gave me some wonderful advice that I have never forgotten, even if I can't remember who he was.
There's the blonde music writer who moved into my apartment building who freaked out when our landlord put her name on the doorbell for her unit. I later found out she was being stalked and had to flee to a new town every time he found out where she lived. She lasted there a few months, then disappeared in the middle of the night. (I hope she found peace.)
There's the miserable older man who hired me for my first professional writing assignment, a ghostwriting gig for a professional gambler whose name I also can't remember. I screwed that gig up on so many levels, but it worked all the same. The lessons learned have not been forgotten, even if the people are foggy in my mind.
There's the woman at the photo studio where I worked my first year after college, who spent every day dreading the upcoming marriage she didn't want to be a part of. I wonder if she ever went through with it?
There's the cousin of a cousin of a cousin I met at a family reunion three whose ear appears on the edge of all of my photos from those days. We talked and joked for hours but even when I look at our family tree I can't figure out who the hell she was.
There's the heavy-drinking, happy-go-lucky guy from my freshman or sophomore dorm floor who killed himself a few years later. None of us ever saw it coming. I remember the pain I felt when I heard the news, but everything else about him has faded away.
There's the "novelist" who showed up at a Garden State Horror Writers meeting and set off all of our creep radar. I later heard he was found wandering the halls of an elementary school. I really don't want to remember his name.
There's the sad old man who lived in the townhouse below us in New Jersey, who told me that his life caring for his disable wife was so miserable he wanted to die. A few weeks later, he did, and his wife was shuffled off to a nursing home by herself.
There's the couple who gave me my fist kitten the first summer I lived on my own. I think they may have been friends of a friend, but I'm not even sure of that. At least I remember the cat's name.
There are so many people who enter our lives on a daily basis. So many faces, so many names, so many ways that they touch us. Some of the encounters are fleeting, yet they leave an impression. Other people stay in our lives for weeks or months or years but are easily forgotten the moment they are out of eyesight.
I have never been great with names, or all that good at keeping in touch with people. For all of the ones that I have forgotten, or almost forgotten, there are so many more that I remember. Even if I don't talk to them ever day, I think about them often. And I wonder how (or if) they all think of me.