Everyday Words

Being Present

October 27, 2007

At a restaurant the other night I saw at a table just a bit away a man I once knew years ago. And when I say knew I mean that we were, for a few weeks, on set together and our interactions were always brief but always enjoyable. We never divulged personal information or had each over for holidays but we shared stories and laughed during the time we worked together. And I can remember almost every day so clearly and so many of the funny little thing’s he’d do – not in a smitten kitten way but because somehow even the mundane was interesting with him.

My first reaction upon seeing him was to say Hi and reconnect. But I hesitated; he wouldn’t remember me and if I just start talking like we know each other he’ll think I’m a crazy fan. Or if I ask about that project he wanted to want to do he’ll wonder why I remember that after all these years – am I a stalker? A loser? A User? So I kept to myself, not even mentioning to anyone at the table that over there was a man I once knew.

However, about thirty minutes later he approached and asked me if I’d ever lived in Vancouver. Yes, I said, for a few years in the mid-90’s. Then he smiled and said, “So nice to see you after all this time, Alex. Do you still have that skirt?”

This man is an A-List celebrity; he has met thousands of people from around the world as is bombarded with people daily. Yet he remembered a skirt I’d worn on set (it had layers and layers), a very bad joke the director told to us, the wiggly worm dance (you’d have to see it), the mittens, and the little cafe nearby that made the foam just so. When he recounted these events he did so with ease, as if remembering is just what we’re supposed to do and not traits of a crazy, loser, stalker user person. But just a fundamental human curiosity.

I remember so many details from years ago; about people, places, polka dots on wallpaper, the way the light hit, that dirty joke. I fall in-love with the little things, people’s mannerisms, moments in the every day but feel like I’m not supposed to. To remember or even notice in the first place has become a sign of obsession, weirdness, boredom, loneliness. After all, if you’re busy it means you must be doing well and if you have time to remember it means you’re not.

I’m busy, I’ve done a lot but I remember because I’m present with each and every person I talk to and am extraordinarily curious (probably far too much for my own good). I don’t half-ass this life – not even an every day conversation. That’s off putting to a lot of people (especially in LA when you’re always supposed to be looking for the next cooler person to talk to. But when I’m talking to you, I’m talking to you. When I’m writing, I’m writing. When I’m walking I look around and because of that I just notice so many things and just simply don’t forget.

But it’s not cool to care, it’s not hip to pay attention, it’s not top dog to notice others. So I have learned to keep quiet about all the little things I remember – especially about people. I can fall in-love so easily with little things about people and miss them almost the moment they’re gone. But I don’t think they’d ever know it as I’m told by most people I come off as aloof. However, I’m anything but. It’s why I still have a little note attached to the book that isn’t really all that interesting or funny; it’s just the thought of the note, the effort of the note, that is charming to me. And I want to remember the good of where that came from. Sounds crazy, no?

But after spending the evening dishing with my friend, my friend who should be Far. Too. Important. And. Busy. to remember the layers of skirt I once had, I felt a bit better about all the details I hold back on sharing. Not full on ease but perhaps I’ll send a note back or ask someone about the event that they probably don’t even think I heard them talking about.