Recognition

blankstare“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

There’s just something about faces. You know, the juxtaposition of eyes, nose, and a mouth, ears on the side, and whatever type of chin someone possesses. I have seen a plethora of faces in my lifetime. They come and go quickly through my periphery, but for the most part they aren’t forgotten. In fact, I remember most faces I’ve ever seen, which is really no exaggeration. Sometimes I’m proud of that fact, and other times it makes me dreadfully sad.

I saw a man today who I haven’t seen in over five years, but I recognized him right off. However, I didn’t approach him to catch up on old times. For one, we were merely acquaintances way back then, and for another, he obviously didn’t remember me. I used to take that personally, wondering how someone could just forget me like that, but admittedly I wasn’t a huge part of his life, and/or memorable enough to make the list of people he would automatically recall. I could have taken the time to refresh his memory, but what would have been the point? “Oh yeah, I know you now.”

What makes me sad, though, are the times when I see someone who was significant to me in some former life but who has no idea who I am when we pass. Sometimes I even say hi, and they look at me like I’m a total stranger, even though for a solid block of time we were as close as two peas in a banana peel. For some people is it just easier to move on and forget, and is that a positive or a negative thing?

I’ve heard the adage that some people are in our lives for a small space of time to accomplish a purpose right then, but then they naturally fade away, going back to their own lives while we go back to ours. But does that mean we have to forget about them when we see them again? That we should avoid them, preferring to go the long way around them when our paths cross in the grocery store or at some social function? Perhaps there really is no going back, but I can’t help but remember. I can’t help but wrap those memories around me like a cashmere blanket and hope they remember too.

funny memory quotesI envy those people too, though, the ones who don’t recall, because then I could go through my life clueless, not having to look around me all the time, not seeing all of the faces I know and their blank looks in return. I could be just another one of those robots who go about their days with a small, insular group of close friends, a bevy of current acquaintances, and nothing else whatsoever. My vacant smile at random people who look vaguely familiar will make me feel good about myself, as if I’m a king nodding to my subjects in passing, but I will have no obligations past the nod and/or the smile, and I can walk away like I’m gliding on air.

But I’m not them, and I probably never will be. Those faces will continue to haunt me, but every once in a while a miracle happens. That light bulb of recognition, of recollection, goes off above their heads and they seem genuinely happy to see me again. I smile back, and then I’m not so sad about all the ones who don’t remember me. It’s not their fault, and it’s not mine either. It’s just life, but it’s the same life that brings some people around again for a reason, for us to reminisce, which is good enough for me.

Sam

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