A few days ago, my mom ran into her ex-boyfriend on her way out of the gym. It happened to be the guy she was dating when she met my father, 25 years ago.
My dad is a hardened city worker now, but he could have been a great writer. In the back corner of our living room, where we keep our passports, and our photo albums, and my grandmother's books from art school, there are about nine or ten unfinished, leatherbound journals of my dad's: stories, notes, poems, love letters from his young life. When I'm up late, I like to steal them from the shelf and read them by the fireplace. Sometimes I'm taken aback by how much I write like my dad. He has this poem about wanting to ice skate like in a Hemmingway piece, about falling in love with my mother on the 95th floor of the John Hancock. But my favorite one's got to be the story of how he met my mom.
In what I consider the most epic meet-cute of 1993 (probably because my existence has solely relied on it), Greg Daly of California and Lincoln Avenue, with a shamrock tattoo on his ankle, first saw Colleen Reardon, queen of Ireland and Chi Omega at Madison Wisconsin, at a Wicker Park dive bar, lovingly named, "The Unicorn". According to my father's handwritten account, it was a Sunday night. She had been taking puffs of a square (but not inhaling, he added), swearing like a sailor, shooting pool in the corner of the bar. And what they didn't know at the time, was that they'd worked two beaches down from each other for years and that their siblings went to prom together.
My dad badgered his friends for her home phone number and called her the next Tuesday. My grandmother picked up the phone, handed it to Colleen, and it "disconnected." He called her back, and they went to Lincoln Square for drinks and Irish music. She broke up with her suburban boyfriend. They were 23. They didn't discover that their siblings had gone to prom together, until a few months later, when they met each other's families. But, I guess you could say that Chicago is as small in abstract as it is wide in city blocks, and the chances of knowing someone before you meet isn't all too crazy.
But this story came out a while ago, about this couple from China that discovered they had appeared in the same photograph, 11 years before they ever met. The lovers from Florida that had met at work, got married and found each other in the background of their family pictures from Disney world as kids. There's my cousin's friend, Morgan, who met her fiancee while walking her dog, only to discover that they'd grown up down the alley from each other.
My first friend in preschool was named Maria. She had curly, dark, hair and we both had a crush on the same boy in our class. We would spend "free time" chasing him around the arts and crafts tables, trying to put a tiara on his head. He hated us, and we were inseparable. We both dressed up as Cinderella for Halloween. I went home one day, and told my parents I made a friend in class and that we wanted to have a play date, make macaroni necklaces, bite the heads off of Barbie dolls, whatever in the world four-year-olds like to do in their free time. They called each other and arranged to drop me off at Maria's house after school one day.
And then, when the playdate finally happened, our parents realized where they had met each other before: in the elevator of Evanston hospital, where Maria and I were born one day apart. Maria and I had been in the same nursery, hours after we were born. And then, to make it even weirder, Maria and I signed up for swim team a few years later. Coach Sheila, who coached our age group, had been working in the nursery at that hospital, the same two days that we were newborns. Maria transferred schools in second grade, but we kept in touch and joked about how we were each other's first best friends.
A family member of mine was a brand new detective, in court for the first time for a Narcotics case. He met eyes with the prosecutor. Both of their jaws dropped.
"White hen guy?!"
In the middle of court.
Years ago, he'd had a long day working at Hartigan beach, and so did one of the bartenders of the White Hen, nearby. They had run into each other after work and went out for a crazy night of drinking together, as a lifeguard and a bartender in their early 20's do, without learning (or really caring) about each other's names.
So, not to sound like the biggest crackhead on earth that keeps Tarot cards on her nightstand, but I want to say that I believe in some sort of fate. In some karmic, cosmic synchronicity that naturally draws us toward the people we are supposed to be around. I want to say that we are energetically drawn to certain people for a reason: to learn from them, to spend our lives with them, to go out for a drink with them after work, to bite off the heads of Barbie dolls together.
In Hinduism, they believe that through the process of reincarnation we acquire "soul groups", our families that we are destined to gravitate towards through each life. There are certain people I've met that I'm certain I've known before, that seem eerily familiar in some transcendental way. I feel as though there are particular people I've crossed paths with that are bonded to me, through an invisible, cosmic string of fate. Maybe these people are part of my soul family.
There was something subtle that happened in an episode of last season's Bachelor (ugh, I know, I know.) Every Monday night, my roommates Kelly, Jackie, and Sophia and I snuck food up from the dining hall to sit on the couch of our dorm room and watch the Bachelor. There was this one episode, where Colton, the guy, and ten other women went out on the streets of Thailand for what they call on the show, a group date. Cassie, one of the contestants, and Colton had their palms read by an "energy healer", or a "psychic", or a monk. Something like that. The healer had told both of them that their souls had been connected through a past life link, that they'd already known each other before. And let me tell you, I almost choked on my Newman hall mashed potatoes.
"Cassie is going to win the Bachelor.", I said. My roommates told me to shut up and hit me with a pillow.