"Dave! Dave Hingsburger!!!"
We had popped into the Whole Foods Market here in Fresno to pick up some things for Sunday dinner. Our intention was to be 'in and out' - I wanted to roll around and look, Joe was going to dash to the various parts of the store which stocked our needs. In truth, this is how Joe prefers to shop. Me, I'm a wanderer, an 'oh, look at that' shopper. This way I wasn't in his way, he wasn't in mine. Good trade. Then I heard my name being called.
"Dave, over here ..." I followed the sound of the voice and saw a woman of about my age who looked vaguely familiar. She was standing next to a cart picking through the bread. I rolled over with a question in my eyes, "Who are you?" At first I wondered if she was one of the people who had heard me speak over the last few days, but she was a tad old to fit into that group.
"You don't remember me do you?" I looked closely, I knew the face, I was sure of that. Even the voice reminded me of someone. Oh, my heavens, in an instant I knew. It was someone I had gone to school with years and years ago. She had the same huge smile and magnificent laugh. It would have been a reach to call us anything more than acquaintences, but when you run into someone from the dark recess of the past, the coincidence of meeting in the same place at the same time, heightens the sense of relationship.
Turns out she and her husband were there on vacation, they'd retired a few years back, and they stopped in Fresno for a day to visit someone they'd met in Vegas. She pointed proudly out to a RV in the parking lot and announced it was 'all the home they need'. I told her that I was here working, doing a series of training. Her face slowly changed as I spoke and then she said, "I'd heard what you were doing, I once even googled your name because I just couldn't believe it."
Joe came over and found me, I introduced him, he saw that we were chatting, "Do you want me to just take this through the line and give you two more time?" We agreed that would be nice. She then went on about how nice Joe seemed and how everyone knew when I was younger that I was "that way" she was pleased that I'd met someone nice. Throughout the conversation there was a genuineness to the warmth she showed me that surprised me. I didn't expect it, I welcomed it, but I wouldn't have predicted it.
"You don't seem at all bitter about those old days," she said suddenly, after we'd laughed about a memory of someone we both remembered fondly.
"Well, none of us gave you much of a chance back then, we were all pretty cruel," she said it like an apology that she'd waited a long time to give.
"I don't dwell on those days much, maybe in my darker moments, but I don't have them often," I said, realizing it was true.
We talked a little longer and when Joe came back we were both waiting for him. The meet had happened, we'd run out of things to catch up on.
I was quiet in the car and I could feel Joe glancing over at me every now and then. I reassured him I was OK. In fact it was all OK. I'm in the life I'm in because I lived the life I did. And I'm fortunate that, for me, that's a blessing, not a curse.