Lately I’ve been hearing about more and more coincidences — head-slapping social flukes that have hit me and other folks my age and older. I mean something more than the usual Smalbany coincidences, which are par for the course in these chummy northern climes; this isn’t just a matter of realizing you and/or your favorite babysitter and/or your cat went to St. Catholics of Catholicism Catholic School with your priest’s uncle’s neighbor’s dentist’s ferret. No. This isn’t that.
I’m talking about geographically wacko coincidences, as in: Hey! That Starbucks barista you met on your visit to the Bering Strait last summer is actually your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s college roommate! Wow! Although, to be honest, I have no idea whether there’s a Starbucks on the Bering Strait, so don’t blame me if you plan your trip over the land bridge and can’t find a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I am merely indulging in poetic license, here.
The point being, this sort of thing happens to me all the time now. I find myself meeting someone new, in some faraway place, and then realizing the two of us share some overlapping personal or professional connection. And I find myself surprised. But lately I’ve started to regard it as S.O.P. for anyone lucky enough to live a decent length of time and know a decent number of people: If you move through life as something other than a miserable, misanthropic, shit-eating crank, you’re bound to collect friends as you go. And those friends, assuming they, too, are something other than miserable, misanthropic, shit-eating cranks, will collect similar numbers of friends as they go. And some of these friends of friends are bound to be your friends, too.
I simply know more people at age 51 than I did when I was younger. Which makes sense. It would be a little odd if we emerged from the birth canal with an iPhone full of contacts. I don’t know about you, but I started out knowing only the inside of my mother’s womb. When I emerged, I met my father and sister. Eventually I was introduced to my father’s Tia Fondina, and as far as I’m aware, I didn’t mark the occasion by howling: OH MY GOD! I MET YOUR OLD FISHMONGER AT THAT TUBA CONVENTION IN NAPLES!!
If I met her now, I might just. Assuming she were alive. And had a fishmonger who played tuba, and assuming I did, too. But it could happen. Because the world gets smaller as the universe expands: it’s a sweet little paradox of human interaction that sprays this life with the light of the next one. When I picture heaven, and it’s hard not to when so many loved ones reside there, I imagine a place where everyone’s a bud, everyone’s blabby, coincidences are rampant (Hey! I know you! You ran the Italian market in my mother’s bridge partner’s accountant’s parish!) and no boundaries exist between known and unknown, familiar and unfamiliar, friend and stranger. So if I don’t know your ex-girlfriend now, I will then.