Letter to a Brief Encounter

I think of you at random moments and smile.

I don’t remember his name anymore. I remember you, though — and when I do, my skin flushes and my heartbeat quickens and warmth suffuses me.

I repeated his name to myself over and over when you had gone. We hadn’t exchanged contact information, but maybe I could find him. In this age of social media, that wasn’t impossible.

So I repeated the few facts I knew about him – John, from the outskirts of London, worked in IT but quit his job to travel for the summer and had a new job lined up for the end of August. A free spirit, surviving on savings and friends’ couches until his new job started.

I knew his itinerary, his plans for where he’d go after his day-trip to Eigg. I considered how I could use that information to find him.

And then I stopped.

Because you, dear Brief Encounter, matter more to me than he does.

You, with your wind in my hair and your sprinkle of rain on my face –
you, dear Brief Encounter, matter more to me than he does.

You, with your image of a stranger’s face delighting in the rain
and awed by the soaring land and swirling sea surrounding us –
you, dear Brief Encounter, matter more to me than he does.

You, with your solitary journey-turned-thrill of attraction –
you, dear Brief Encounter, matter more to me than he does.

And I realize, dear Brief Encounter, that his surprise when I hugged him goodbye as we parted ways when the ferry docked – me to spend the next few days on the island, him to hike a bit and catch the evening’s return ferry – I realize his surprise was not only due to his British sensibilities, different from my American sensibilities.

It’s because I was really saying goodbye to you, Brief Encounter. Not to him. I was hugging you, not him. And I think he might have sensed that.


Notes: I have no photos from the ferry ride to Eigg because my phone had died. My companion on this trip took many photos, and I contemplated asking him to email them to me, but even then I think I knew – the beauty and preciousness of this encounter lay in its ephemeral quality. It was to pass, with no ties to futurity, if it was to retain its significance to me. So above is simply a photo I took on Eigg.

(I changed his info. Those details are close to the truth, but they’re not totally accurate. And I really don’t remember his name.)

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