Safe Distance Greeting

by herespang

You know of a person—a friend of a friend.

In fact, you are on friendly terms with a particular family: a household of two, husband and wife, each of whom you share a friendship with; the two friendships are separate but equal.

You are not sure which one of the two you are closer to, but that is not the point; you have not socialized with these early-thirty lovebirds for almost 3 years; by now they’d be mid-thirty birds of the kind unknown to you.

You like to imagine (and hope) that their once apparent affection for one another has not waned.

It is not a long brewing grudge that bore itself out of conflicts, instead, it just is. “What happened? Life happened.” That’s one way of explaining it, in what “they” say (do people really say that?).

A few weeks ago, in a public space that hosts extensive foot traffic, you recognized the back of the husband a few feet ahead of your steps on the sidewalk.

His particular build: broad shoulders on a 5’10, stocky torso; the larger size of his head; the black, dull shimmer of his mid-length hair. It was him with his unmistakeable gait—clumsy, but relaxed, yet heavy.

Right there and then, you abruptly tuned down your pace; it’s been too long and you were too tired to go through the typical jabber of the catching-up talk. You have come to realize that people are better off catching up while engaged in less talkative activities, or at least you have learned that you are better off that way, personally. So you made no plans to catch up, physically nor personally.

It’s like the phone call that progressively gets more intolerable to make; so you eventually wind up not making it at all.

But this was different—you knew sure as hell that your presence couldn’t make a difference in their lives. You are not the saint whose words are divine. And they certainly do not require help from you in any shape, way, or form.

Then again, who knows, you could have been the tiny cog in the great clock work of the grand scheme of things that made all the difference to them. You decide to not think about that.

There was something new and peculiar about the picture: aside him, holding onto his left hand, was a little person. She waddled with a funny sway, taking two extra steps for every step the giant next to her took.

She wore the a magenta raincoat that sharply contrasted his dark navy, more form fitting sweater. Maybe it’s the attire, or it could simply be the power of innocence and youth—shining pure and exuberant juxtaposed to anything.

Three years and they were already a family of three: with a new person you had never seen before. It’s shocking because it felt as if you fast-forwarded, past the parts where she was pregnant and her daughter was born and how she went from being bald, crawling on all fours to standing upright, almost half a whole person.

You followed them a short distance, keeping just enough of a gap so you could blend in with the other pedestrians.

Something made the little one turn her head. She looked back and she landed her eyes on you.

You smile and wave, subtly mischievous so she’d find it humorous—so she could trust this stranger she had never met once in her life.

Her face giggled without making a sound. She turned back around; her hair shone just like her dad’s, but it was smooth, silky, and long—must have come from the mother.

Out of curiosity, as they ambled on, she would turn around to look again and again, and each time you made a different face to entertain her.

You wanted her to trust you, to portray yourself as an adult who wasn’t so full of intent and lies and sharp corners.

After a short while, the Dad began to notice the difference in his Daughter’s behavior. She turned all the while holding on to his hand, and every time stopping briefly then managing to catch up again by clinching harder onto his big, powerful hand. To her, it was a lever of security.

“What are you looking at?” The father asked, look down on her, but not back at you.

Before she had time to point and explain, you quickly turned to your back, and proceeded in the opposite direction.

You hastened your steps, walking in between and in front of every other person you passed on the street, so the Dad would give up on identifying the back figure of the stranger who was quickly melting into the background.

You escaped without having to confront him; you felt strange, isolated, but all the more relieved.

This was your catch-up greeting, a silent and half facetious hello to the little one.