(Photo credit: Martin Vorel – “People in Metro Station”)
A colleague brought up that I was reading a German book on the plane during our company trip the year before. Another colleague followed by saying that the reason why I did was “trying to impress”.
I’d and have no mean to impress anyone by reading a German book. There wasn’t anyone from my company to begin with. I brought the book along as I love reading when I’m travelling, especially during journeys on trains and planes, And that book happened to be the latest one I bought then.
This conversation, however, reminded me of an incident. I think I was in the 2nd year of University. I was holding my German textbook when I boarded the bus because I was catching up with my homework while waiting for the bus and thought that it would be easier if I just hold it then to put it back into my backpack.
On the crowded bus, I happened to stand beside the seats of two, who I thought, German guys, with my back facing them. I was learning German and wanted some German friends to practise German with. During the journey, I was hoping that they would talk to me when they see that I was holding on to a German textbook. And they did! They asked to have a look at my German textbook and I think they also wished that I could be more welcoming to a conversation that day. It was one of those moody Monday mornings so talking and having smiling expression weren’t really something I could activate at an instant. And then they alighted and I’ve never seen them around campus ever again. I’ve put this incident behind me, although with much regrets in the past and blaming myself for not being so approachable. Yet, I was reminded of this incident after the above-mentioned conversation. I wonder how they are doing right now, were they expecting to start a conversation with me back then, would we have become friends if we’ve talked, and so on. So many questions, but they are futile because they have already been determined to have no answers. They are just two random guys I’ve met on the bus. The one(s) that got away.
I think sometimes I tend to idealise strangers. My lack of knowledge and interaction with them give me ample space for the possible “what-ifs” and “could-haves”.
I recall another incident that happened also during my undergraduate days. Actually, there were quite a few similar incidents, which I’ve probably forgotten.
I met this exchange student from Amsterdam in the library. We shared the table twice and we would smile to acknowledge each other’s presence whenever we saw each other. Probably less than 5 times that I saw him in the library actually. No big deal. I remember he was a tall guy, wearing a really nice pair of grey sneakers and really nice cologne. (On a side note, I notice I’m attracted to people who wear grey sneakers. Or rather, the people I’m attracted to just happened to wear grey sneakers. It was the same with S and it made me want to own a pair of similar pair). Back to topic, the cologne the Dutch was wearing was not the super manly kind; it was more like a woody mist kind of fragrance. I can’t really remember the smell now but it was unique then. There was once we finally talked. But that day wasn’t my day (again). I was sick and I was going to have my mid-term. I got to know that his name is Sebastian/Bastian (or however you pronounce it in Dutch) and that he was from Amsterdam. Well, we didn’t talk much after that because I had to continue to study and he went off to buy coffee, which I reckoned he was planning to stay there for long. I can’t remember if I actually returned to the library or headed home because I was unwell; all I remember was I didn’t see him until a long time later when it was close to the end of the semester. It was also the last time I’ve seen him. An encounter with chance for more conversation but I kind of blew it (again). That day was the day when I had to submit my final-year thesis. I rushed to the library to print out my thesis. On the way down the stairs, I saw him and he saw me. We paused for a short second and looked at each other. I said “hey!”, and he did the same. Then, I just quickly ran off to print my things because I was running out of time. My infatuation for him lasted for quite a few months, and he was partly the reason why I got interested in visiting Amsterdam during my grad trip. He, too, was one of the ones that got away.
While typing this entry, I remembered another guy. I’m pretty surprised that he popped into my head as I didn’t really think of him much. I met him on a rainy day. I needed to get from one place to another in campus, which was only a small road across, but it wasn’t sheltered, so I would get drenched by the rain despite the short distance. I saw him walking in front of me with an umbrella in hand. I ran up to him asking him where he was going and if it was okay if he could shelter me across. He was heading left and my destination was straight ahead, but he agreed. We had a little chat. He was a business student from Copenhagen and we talked a little about Denmark. That the rain in Denmark isn’t so strong as it is over here and him telling me how could I not have an umbrella when I’m living in a place with such strong rain. Well, short distance. As I was meeting a professor with another few course mates and was close to being late, I quickly said goodbye to him after that and boy, I wish I asked him for coffee. He was such a nice boy to shelter me across. We could have become good friends. And yup, that was the only time I’ve seen him. I might have bumped into him or some sort after that without me knowing, but yup, I would say that was the only time I’ve seen him. And he too, is one of the ones that got away.
From these experiences, I’ve seen the need for me to open up and be more sociable. But still, the ones that got away will forever leave some question marks in my life, and at random times when I thought of them, I can’t help but regret that I didn’t attempt to get to know them better and form a friendship. Even when I meet new people in my life.