“It never seemed worth risking the rejection to bother asking someone else to come along,” I wrote. My English teacher returns my paper with a big fat red circle around the word “It.” What does this refer to? Ms Mcguire wants to know. I dunno. The rejection doesn’t seem worth risking? grrrr. I don’t make the rules; I just utilize perfectly acceptable verbal forms of English. Nonetheless Eunice McGuire gets me thinking. What does “it” refer to? Perhaps “the possibility of reward” is not worth the risk of rejection. That is why I hesitate to ask others along. Going solo keeps my life simple.. . .
On that fateful day, against my better judgement, I’d gone to a St Patrick’s day dinner with a casual acquaintance. The type of person who might evolve into a friend, and unfortunately did not. In the heat of the moment he abandons me. Fails to inure me from her wrath. We sit down in a crowded bar at a tiny table already ringed with three other people. The lady to my left is known to me. She introduces her husband as “Tom.” I turn next to the redhead beside him. I ask her, her name. She replies, with a completely straight face, “Tom.”
“Oh!” I register surprise. A girl named “Tom,” eh? I’m hardly sure what to make of that when she bites my head off. “What the fuck’s a matter with you?” She demands, shattering the peace at the table. I jump in my skin. “You know me,” Tom insists. “Do all white people look the same to you?” All white people? hmmmm. Try all people. See I’m ridiculously bad with faces. A true prosopagnosic. It’s a neurological problem not a visual one. I can see a face just fine, the face resolves in my mind as an indistinguishable shape or form, like I suppose the rest of you feel when trying to identify one leaf on a tree as separately, ridiculously, unique from another.
When meeting a person as preposterously average as the redhead – gosh I can’t imagine where I’d met her before, let alone gotten to know her. Most people I know I come to distinguish through various compensating factors. For one, I try to attach “story” to people. The more story I know the more easily recognizable people are. Hence I strive to remember in addition to people what circumstance I met them, who was with them, what we were talking about. That sort of information really helps: when someone says, “you know, we met at your son’s back-to-school day – our kids are in the same class.” Or “You know we met at the church you used to attend, the one down in Culver City.” But this lady? She doesn’t ring a bell.
A deafening silence fills the room after “Tom’s” outburst. I suspect her name isn’t even Tom. Upon learning her name is “Anna” I still don’t have a clue. Is she possibly a friend of my ex husband? I really hadn’t made many friends for myself and here was a damn good reason why. Not being able to recognize my own friends could be a serious strain on the relationship. No one seeks to smooth over the rough incident. They merely speak on other matters after an awkward moment. I sit, wishing myself somewhere else. How long do I owe the person I came with, I wonder. I beg off. I go home. I did not have fun. But my curiosity is truly piqued. When and where have I met Tom? I mean Anna –
Years pass; the thought never reveals. I have no idea how I know Anna. Whenever I incidentally run into her at the post office a vision of her face flush with anger, demanding what the fuck’s a matter with you? ? dances in my head. Recognition of our former friendship, however, does not. Her words, “You know me” haunt me. I am tempted to ask, “have you been to my house? Which house was it? When did I know you? Under what circumstances?
I can’t seem to balance my curiosity with the price to pay. It didn’t seem worth it to risk entangling myself with Anna again. I imagine my former English teacher circling the word “it” with her thick red pencil. What does “it” refer to? The resolution to the mystery is too small a payoff to risk hearing this Anna woman raise her voice and swear at me again, that’s what I’m talking about.
About two years later I notice Anna does lots of theater. She performs. She’s part of the local thespian clique. I am not. An acquaintance of mine speculates that maybe Anna is one of those dramatic types that figures everyone knows who she is because she’s visible. She’s up on stage. I do attend lots of local plays. The explanation sounds plausible, although I never quite bought it. The way Anna had leaned in to say “You know me,” had felt too personal. Had intimated we go for coffee. We baby sit each other’s children. Even though I have no recollection of either. I’m bad with faces, downright terrible, but I’m perfectly fine with events. And I have no memory of any event prior to the St Patrick’s day bash that included Anna.
I would have never recounted the event to another soul until I was forced to about two years ago. Anna visits my turf. She came right into the real estate office where I work. Hoping to avoid another castigating remark I admit to her agent “that woman doesn’t like me very much.” He couldn’t imagine why. I rather sheepishly admit to my colleague the whole incident including the fact that literally years later I still had no idea where I had met her, why I should have recognized her and how I know her. He did his best to damage control, minimizing her contact with me, ushering her immediately back into his office whenever I was present. Worst of all I still had no idea why she’d been so angry, why she felt so strongly about my failure to remember her. It musta been a helluva friendship that I have no memory of. . .
Two more years went by, a full four before I solve the mystery of “Tom.” It was such a surprise to me I write this blog. What was a surprise? How about the discovery that poor face blind me is not the only bad guy in the universe? Your jaw may drop when you hear the end of the story. You won’t believe your ears. A friend of mine asks me to drop off some papers at the All Seasons Office. If you’ve been there you know All Seasons shares space with a restaurant called “Basecamp.” The broker owns both.
The broker’s office upstairs was locked, so I trot dutifully downstairs with my docs. No agents are inside the realty office. I suppose I could have dropped off my stuff without comment, but I didn’t. I enter the restaurant and run smack into (you guessed it) Tom (!). She says I can leave my stuff with her. Shoots. The next day the broker calls with the following comment: I’m just trying to figure this out – Anna says this stuff was dropped off by the massage lady but it looks like your handwriting.
Massage lady? That nice Indian girl, the one with a faint transAtlantic accent? The one half my age, young enough to be my daughter? The one with hair that barely grazes her shoulders when mine is to my seat? Holy Cow! Well of course Anna might think Jeet ought to know her, they’ve crossed paths many, many times. But I guess – I guess all brown people look alike to Tom, because I ain’t that person and she isn’t me. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. In the land of the face blind the 2 faced lady is queen.
Now y’all play nice!