Big City, Small World

If we start counting with my freshman year of college, and if we don’t subtract for winter and summer breaks and studying abroad for six months and moving to Fort Collins for six months, I’ve been in Denver for nine years. Even if we do subtract all of those things, I’ve been here a while. The city is feeling small. Over the summer it felt suffocatingly small. This fall it feels cozy — less, of course, to do with the city itself than with my own state of mind. Either way, being here for that long means you run into people you know…

There are these two professors — they are married, and they are lovely. I’ve met them once, when Barrett and I were invited to a post-poetry-reading party… We, mere undergraduates, were invited by the famed poet himself. He kissed our cheeks when we arrived at someone’s (whose?) house in that gorgeous neighborhood just east and south of the (old) medical school, and I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know that in other circles people kiss cheeks and it is not terribly intimate, just a greeting, and one shouldn’t take it personally. Anyway, these two professors were there, and I think Barret knew them, maybe, and I was introduced. People looked at us like we did not belong, and we didn’t, really. But there we were, with faculty and grads, amid such sophistication, two underage, out-of-place (but nonetheless invited) girls.

I see these two professors everywhere. I work across the street from them. I see them on campus, of course, but I also see them out and about, and sometimes I look in my rear view mirror to see them driving behind me in their little car. I’ve spotted them at Chipotle. I saw them last Friday at the Ethiopian restaurant. I saw him coming to work twice this week. I saw her in the grocery store yesterday. I’m quite certain they don’t remember me, that I don’t register as a girl they see everywhere. Maybe I’m wrong. I should probably reintroduce myself.

Just before the grocery store, I ran into a friend from college and her fiance. I left the grocery store (where I sighted one of the professors), and walked around Cherry Creek before meeting friends for lunch. I heard my name and turned around — it was someone from my high school class. Please note: My high school class was not big, just 40-50 people in a tiny town four hours south. The guy I ran into was popular, kind of cocky, funny, sought-after by the girls, a jock, a flirt (not with me) and a bit of a class clown. I was kind of a nerd. Okay, not really “kind of.” He was cool; I was not. My “sport” was Knowledge Bowl. He alternated between teasing me relentlessly, being a little mean, and ignoring me completely. I’m less dorky now (or dorky is cooler, maybe). I showed up with a library book, and he didn’t tease me about it. We talked for a while, and it was nice to catch up. Even though we felt like we had so little in common ten years ago, we actually share a lot, even if it’s just having grown up in the same town, knowing the same people from those years, and being enveloped by the city that used to seem so big.

It’s not really that big at all…



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3 responses to “Big City, Small World

  1. I keep spotting this bizarre older man. I think he is crazy. I see him everywhere. I know he has spotted me too. It’s creepy.

  2. Barrett

    That party was incredibly strange, I remember thinking, “Do people live like this? Will I live like this?” I had, after that night, determined I would indeed have to live like that, if I really wanted to be a writer. It was the first time I had chocolate-covered strawberries. I was really glad that you were there, too, not just to enjoy the strawberries, but to agree with me how strange (and maybe wonderful) it all was . . .

  3. Maura

    I have a whole slew of people I see around Denver (mostly from going to St. Marks) who I recognize, but they have no clue who I am. Usually I find it comforting, but not always.

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