Chance

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SEPTEMBER 2, 2010

Chance

John sat on a park bench and, in the inhale that preceded a weightless afternoon

sigh, felt sanguinely that all of summer’s agreeable fragrances had come together

in this very park, the way the pretty girls in every high school all find each other

eventually, which led him to recall how exotic was the elusive and nuanced

collective scent that trailed groups of girls in hallways, the vaporous

intimation like a mirage; though, if deconstructed, it could also be identified

as a fortunately chance blend of base oils and their subtle overlying scents—

jasmine, lotus, orchid-plants in his mom’s backyard.

Rachel and Erin met in the park after years since their last meeting. They

exchanged brief

versions of their more seasoned lives and dispassionate inquiries about old

mutual friends,

who were buried in their thoughts under the recent and the not quite recent,

under thoughts of when the mail would come and where the dog had buried his toys.

When John tried to catch Rachel’s eye from the other side of a net-less

volleyball match, Rachel was thinking about how she felt small in that park,

how she could feel the city miles to her left and, six hours beyond that,

the last place she’d lived and what was going on there without her.

Both John and Rachel thought the same rare thought at the same moment, though,

of course, neither would ever know. John, however, felt a strange connection

pass between them, which surged right through what would have been a net serve,

as they both thought, for arcane reasons, the words of Catherine from “Wuthering

Heights”:

“He’s [She’s] more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, it is the same.”

And then each felt his and her unique history of disappointments.

All that Erin and Rachel had left in common, immediately, were their sandwiches

from the same shop. So they talked about those.

In common also, however, between Rachel and Erin, was their underlying,

though unacknowledged, hope that everyone they’d ever known they’d meet again,

as though at an important reunion picnic in the future, where the guest list revolvedaround each woman’s exclusive history and all of the estranged lives of

acquaintances

would hypothetically unite, so that both Erin and Rachel had let go

of everyone in her life, each time,

with halfhearted promises to retain them in their thoughts

and with only a tentative sadness. Today, however,

John, Erin, and Rachel each felt that all of their significant relationships now

seemed arbitrary.

And despite that John saw another woman twenty minutes ago and felt the same

strange

connection drifting through the fumes of a family barbeque, and would again in

five minutes,

and again in five years with Rachel, under coincidental circumstances, her hair

dyed red,

the three of them felt, in the same moment, their hearts drop as the weights shifted,

the small, significant moving measure, one of many which tipped

the scales toward resignation and the resulting sad freedom to love

less from now on.

This they each felt later that day, while Erin, in an airplane,

saw a cloud and the whole shadow that it made from end to end over the edge

of the town below, and Rachel, shedding her sunglasses and lifting her visor,

drove into its shadow and then from street to street in the shade.

This article ran in the September 23, 2010 issue of the magazine.

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