Beth and I had spent the long weekend dog-sitting in Los Angeles and decided that we should take a short break to visit our friend Jehoaddan. She, along with her husband, had just purchased a quaint house in Highland Park and was in the process of moving. After a quick tour the three us began to walk back to her apartment. It was then that a car pulled up behind us and someone from the front seat yelled “Hey!”
My initial reaction when someone does this in Los Angeles is to curl up in the fetal position, in the same manner you would during a grizzly attack, a tornado, or a marathon of What Not To Wear. In this instance the "Hey" was so friendly that we turned around and smiled. We discovered that the greeting came from a young man wearing glasses sitting in the passenger seat of a car, with a girl next to him as the driver.
Immediately I recognized him as my friend Thatcher, who I once shared a bathroom with during my freshman year in college and had since never really had a meaningful conversation with. Probably because of said bathroom. The fact that we both had to hear each other doing our business while studying kind of put a damper on things. Still, knowing he had recognized me made me feel somewhat special, so I responded enthusiastically “HEY!! How’s it going?!”
“Hey,” he replied, "um, it's going good."
Oh Thatcher, I thought fondly, always so awkward. That guy is high-larious.
“Good to see ya!!!!” I said back, waving enthusiastically.
“Hi!” Beth chimed in, also recognizing him as her friend from Visalia.
Then Jehoaddan, with a slightly perplexed look, came forward and said, “These are my friends Zack and Beth.”
Suddenly I realized that this guy wasn’t in fact my friend Thatcher, but actually somebody who I had never met before in my entire life and now was probably trying to figure out, at that same moment, how he could have possibly known me. Did we run into each other once at a bar? Were we in the same homeroom in high school? A neighbor perhaps? Good thing I didn't mention we shared a bathroom.
The guy smiled, nodded, and sat quietly for a moment while deeply in thought, before slightly shrugging and following it up with, “Well I'll see you later!”
The girl in the drivers seat promptly drove off.
Jehoaddan turned to me and asked, “Did you meet him at our wedding?”
For a moment I considered saying yes, just to spare us all the embarrassment, but realizing that I didn't actually go to their wedding, I bit my lower lip and admitted, “No. I have no idea who that guy is."
"Really?" She said. "But you seemed so friendly."
Beth too gave me a perplexed look.
Suddenly I realized that in the moment that I said hi, every single person on that street was trying to figure out how exactly anyone knew anybody else, to the point of making up entire false memories. To everyone there, that guy and I already went way back.
"Well, if it makes you feel better," Beth later told me, "He probably thought you were on crack."
Somehow it actually did make me feel better.
I think the next stranger I'm running into is getting a hug.