I thought I saw Kathi today. Kathi with an i. Kathi from college. I was waiting for my coffee when I saw her standing in line. It's been many, many years, but this woman had Kathi's nose. Then, when she turned, I saw that she also had Kathi's eyes. And I felt a pang of recognition. Her voice wasn't Kathi's. But it didn't matter, because otherwise she was practically Kathi.
I thought about it carefully. I knew that if I said anything to Kathi, there would be no going back to the not knowing whether or not she was Kathi. And, as obvious as it seems that confirmation would be the better thing, the fact that there is no going back to the state of 'not knowing' had to be carefully considered.
And I knew if I said anything that the next few minutes would be very different than I had imagined them to be. And I had to decide what was more important to me: a few minutes of dark roast coffee with a hint of cinnamon and nothing else going on–or a few minutes of reconnecting with Kathi. Long lost Kathi. Kathi with an i.
If I tapped Kathi on the shoulder, she and I would scream and hug and start talking very loudly and animatedly. It would be like no time had passed at all. I'd find out that she had indeed gone successfully forward in the fashion industry (as evidenced by her amazing suede boots and what looked like $10,000.00 bag). And I'd explain how I hadn't (as evidenced by my disposable drug store mittens and back-pack by Bic).
We'd laugh. We'd suddenly remember the instructor that had made our lives so miserable. And I'd be able to finally tell her how I went back to school years later and had that same instructor all over again! Oh, the exquisite irony. And Kathi would just die at the mention of this. Just. Die. And my mind would be blown by a flood of memories. Of course! Of course! How could I ever forget?
We'd trade email addresses and promise to get in touch. We'd say goodbye and go our separate ways. Later, I'd look at her business card and marvel that her handwriting on the back was exactly the same as I had remembered.
And, I would wonder if I hadn't somehow predicted all of this. Hadn't Kathi crossed my thoughts a few times recently? I'd chalk it up to something slightly more interesting than pure coincidence. Like synchronicity. Or something about the Collective Unconscious.
Still, should I say anything? It felt scary to break the status quo. What was I afraid of? Why was I so un-spontaneous? Why couldn't I simply run into someone and be happy to reconnect? Why couldn't I be glad for life's surprises? Why did this kind of thing always provoke such anxiety in me? What on earth was the matter with me?
So, as I started to say, "Excuse me, is your name Kathi?", my brain screamed, Wait! Let's think about this! Even if this person is Kathi, it's unlikely that this will be anything short of awkward and uncomfortable. Besides, were there not solid reasons that we drifted apart in the first place?
Then again, what are the chances of ever running into her again? I've been thinking a lot about the people I've lost touch with, lately. And Kathi was quite dear to me at one time.
"Excuse me, is your name Kathi?"
"No", she said, "Sorry."
"Oh, no problem."
I sat down at the window with my coffee for a few minutes, just as I had imagined I would. I did half expect Kathi to come through the door, though. It felt inevitable. And if she did? I was ready.