With no preplanned strategy or design, this post is similar in tone to yesterday’s post, wherein I am the pitiable victim of circumstances beyond my control, begging strangers, with its recounting, for sympathy and a hug.
I cannot help how these ideas sequentially come out. They emerge randomly, like rolled dice, or Spotify’s “Shuffle Play.” You could get two clunkers in a row, or two memorable classics. As its passive recipient, I just sit back and watch the parade.
So today, there’s this.
The event I shall describe took place at some commemorative gala held by Dr. M’s psychoanalytic institute which, my wife, an active member and, more importantly, the group’s current president, is required to attend, and whom – my dragging Duke of Edinburgh to her Queen Elizabeth the Second – I am dutifully obligated to accompany.
Recent years have seen my social calendar dotted with dinners and conferences (Austin, Washington D.C., New York) where I am included as the inevitable “Plus One.” Not quite as demeaning as being sent upstairs while the anointed “grownups” in my living room talk shop. (See: Yesterday’s post.) But notches below being the recognized “Tog Dog” I once was but have not been for some time.
Okay. Times change. There I am, sitting in a restaurant where they serve pumpkin ravioli in an actual pumpkin, flashing the frozen smile of the terminally ignored. It’s like there’s a sign on me saying, “Totally Irrelevant To This Circumstance.” It is habitual for me to want to quickly leave parties. But this time… come on!
Then something occurs, taking a demonstrably “down” experience demonstrably downer.
“I’m not sure I can take any more.”
Stay with me. It’ll be over in a moment.
From another table – I suppose; more likely than crashing in from the street – a woman approaches our table, kneels down slightly behind me and to my left. She explains the intrusion, saying we used to work together at Universal.
“Was I nice?” I immediately inquire.
I forget her answer. (Because it was not really a question, just a stopgap interruption.) She then reveals she had worked in “Public Relations” at Universal, where we had met promoting Major Dad.
And here’s the hard part.
She asked if I remembered her.
Although – quick answer – I didn’t.
Imagine this scenario:
A woman, who’d had a work-related encounter with me thirty years ago, sitting at her table, spots me, sitting at my table. At that moment, she has to make a decision:
“Should I, or shouldn’t I?”
Meaning should she come over and say hello, or spend the rest of the evening – and possibly her life – wishing she had. Risking embarrassing discomfort, she decides to come over… and ask if I remember her.
What am I supposed to do?
The first thing I did was pause.
Not an encouraging portent, if you’re her.
But what were my options?
Fake remember her? That is not in my repertoire.
But there she is…kneeling.
Asking for what?
A simple spark of human recognition.
My extended pause does not deter her. She piles up additional specifics, none of which ring a recollectional bell.
The pressure is entirely on me. I wrack my brain for a salvaging memory.
“Women in P.R. at Universal.” I recall one who would not help me promote Major Dad when it was struggling, explaining, “You’re not exactly a hit, you know.” Could this possibly be her? If it is…
Wait! There was another “P.R.” woman, who came to the house, shepherding “phone interviews” from across the country. Maybe that’s who’s kneeling beside me. I recall our instant bantering rapport, long before noticing her shapely extremities, realizing that was “trespassing”, and moving on.
No lowered “political correctness” standards would allow,
“Were you the one with the legs?”
So I continued my silence.
Needing to finally come clean – because she was impeding the flow of “Server” traffic – I admitted, apologetically, that I did not remember who she was.
And she subsequently departed.
I wonder what it was like going back to her table, and possibly a companion.
“How did it go?”
“He didn’t remember me.”
That’s the story.
I ruined a night out for a stranger.
Maybe next time I should try to pretend.
Leaving the lingering question,