so far away

Posted: September 25, 2021 in Humorous Bits, Traskland
Tags: , , , ,

I walked around the local market and bumped into an old neighbor. He and his wife moved about two years ago, staying in town but upgrading to a single-family house to accommodate their ever-expanding brood. Despite his snug mask, I immediately recognized him.

“Hey! How are you?” I asked with genuine sincerity. He was a good neighbor, familiar without being intrusive, interested without being nosy, caring without being phony.

“Hi, John! It’s so nice to see you,” he replied, eyes smiling.

I tend to handle these types of chance encounters pretty well. I can effortlessly make a few minutes of small talk. It is a minor skill which hopefully helps smooth over potentially awkward situations. But as his greeting sunk in and fired through my synapses, I quickly recalled one horrifying fact: I could never remember his name. While “Hi, John!” echoed in my ears, this terrible truth filled my head with a kind of dread certainty. Even when we were neighbors, his name never stuck. You can only ask so many times before looking like a complete dolt and, at some point, I stopped asking. When I learned he was moving, a petty part of me felt relieved. It is nothing to be proud of, but there you have it.

Occasionally, I have difficulty with names. It is a shortcoming of which I am painfully aware. But the worst part – and this is truly disturbing – it only tends to happen with folks who are not from European stock. I’ve known this for years and have consciously worked on improving. Yet every now and then it crops up like a bad dream and creates a mental block as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

My ex-neighbor is from India. A large Indian population resides in this part of the country. This is especially true in our neighborhood. Over the past 15 years we’ve seen a noticeable demographic shift to predominantly Indian. One of the most visible signs of this change has been a revitalized sense of community. Every night the sidewalks and playground are filled with people walking around, socializing, and enjoying each other’s company. Where once the streets were mostly empty and the development felt like a cluster of solitary families, there is now constant, vibrant life. It is wonderful.

I realize this sounds exactly like what it is: a pathetic attempt to excuse myself for forgetting names not common to me by illustrating I am pro diversity. The attempt may be transparent, but it is heartfelt. Sometimes obvious justifications happen to be true.

We caught up for a few minutes and touched upon the pandemic, work, and family, all the usual topics I can smoothly chat about on the fly. All the while his name never crept back into my leaky memory. I suspect he has long known I can’t remember it, but he is a gentleman and never lets on. I appreciate his kindness. I also appreciate he didn’t pepper the conversation with “John” this and “John” that. Still, I was embarrassed like I always am when we talk.

This was the first time we’ve seen each other since 2019. He only moved a few miles down the road, but apparently it is enough distance to minimize any random meetings. In this case a few miles is so far away, much like me ever recalling his name.

  1. John says:

    Namenesia. I’m borrowing that!


  2. rangewriter says:

    Oh John, (And Dave) I so relate to this issue. My former husband suffered from the same malady. We joked that one day one or the other of us would be faced with introducing the other. It would go like this, “Hi, (no name, because the brain is too busy flipping through the empty rolodex) how are you? Have you met . . .er, um, him–my husband?” Because I’d be so busy flipping madly through that rolodex that I’d have meanwhile lost Erich’s name as well! The same could play out for either one of us. I call it namenesia.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    My inability to remember names (ANYONE’s) is legendary and a real social handicap at times.

    Liked by 1 person

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