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I stood on the subway platform, patiently awaiting my 7 train chariot to carry me from Midtown East to Hudson Yards for a midday meeting. I had my headphones in and was scrolling through uninformative, poorly-formatted tweets when I thought I saw someone familiar. My first reaction, obviously, was to look away immediately. I tried to place who it was, and wondered if it made sense for me to be seeing her here. I knew her from high school. Lauren? Lara? Lisa? Lauren, definitely. I looked back up, my hand ready to wave and my eyebrows ready to say, “OMG?! Lauren? Is that you?!” As we made eye contact a second time, I saw the wave of recognition—and then pure panic. Instead of returning the wave, smile, and OMG she was about to receive, she made a run for it. She averted her eyes, pivoted with finesse, and scuttled to the other side of the platform.
The confusion was palpable. I’m usually the asshole — I prefer to hurt people before I get hurt — so it felt cold hearted that she would deny me. There’s no doubt about it: running into people you kind of know is satan’s work. There is not a single person who has ever run into an acquaintance and left the situation better for it. Instead, your hellos come out squeaky and fake. You’re forced into “catching up” on someone’s life who you either A. Don’t give a shit about, or B. Already know everything because you saw it on Facebook, aka you don’t give a shit about it. Was this chick onto something?
People go to big cities for anonymity. But after a while, you meet people, you do stupid shit, and you make your own sort of mark in your own part of a town—regardless of how big that city is. It becomes home, and you go to the same places and see the same people. You think you can just casually go to a neighborhood sports bar for a drink? Nope, of course, you’re going to run into your high school boyfriend. Of course, he’s going to be there with all of his friends who know who you are because you’re the last girl he dated before he came out as gay.
You think you can find peace and sanity at your tiny neighborhood grocery store, hungover as all hell on a Saturday morning? Of course not. Of course, the casual fling who dramatically dumped you two weeks ago is going to be there with his roommate because they just moved across the street from you. So long, makeup-free strolls to the corner coffeeshop. So long, peaceful walk-of-shames. It’s been a good run, New York, but this shit is too much for me.
I run into people I know or knew and don’t want to see regularly. I get clammy, I get awkward, and I talk as fast as I can to fill the space so neither of us have to say anything of substance. It has never one time been an enjoyable experience. It’s like when you’re alone on the elevator with a co-worker, or the friend you went to a party with goes to the bathroom. Hey, anyone want to see how fast we can make this girl word vomit an embarrassing secret? Just give me someone I’ve drunkenly made out with and I’m your girl.
How do I avoid these terrible moments in time? They are stressful, and they are inevitable. I want a way out. So I had to wonder, after all of the torment these run-ins have caused me, is it Lauren from AP Literature who had it right? Is the answer to avoiding a run-in… just to run away?.