I stopped believing in the assumption the many people we come across on a daily basis--those to which I might nod, avoid or even stop and greet--have no purpose for my life directly. In fact, chance encounters can be defining. On any given day, I come across a handful of new people, some with which I might be forced into ceremonial bonding via my professors, others could just be, for that day, a courteous peer who picks up my cell phone and hands it back to me while with filled hands I have carelessly let it fall to the floor. No matter the circumstance, for the few seconds it takes to exchange casualties, I get a glimpse into their personality. Had it been a student hiding horns beneath their teased hair and a forked tongue behind their pursed lips, I would have had to struggle to pick the phone off the ground, and anyone who knows me would know it would only end in disaster. It is safe to assume, on campus I will not go without seeing such bright faces at least one more time before the semester ends. It is a comfort I keep with me.
There is a universal care of others' well-beings we share: while I may not have known the boy I rode the shuttle bus with twice last year was going to be the same boy who was hit by a train before fall semester began, to connect the two events left me bruised--even if I had not seen him previous to the tragedy, the idea of a life lost gave me reason to stop and dedicate a moment of silence to those who knew more than his face before his name was plastered on newspaper headlines. Sadly, if I had to write the obituary it would read nothing more than, "The mildly attractive boy who sat a couple of rows in front of me on the campus shuttle bus, whose name I have forgotten/never knew, was killed. I am sure many are affected by this." This, of course, is why I find obituaries disparaging to write. Whether I knew the person on an intimate level or they were merely another student on the same bus route as I, it is never easy to admit to the world we lost another potential president-in-the-making, or young Van Gogh.
When I first began my "initiation" onto campus, I was overwhelmed by the amount of new students at orientation. We filled an auditorium of seating for 600 and we were merely one tour of many that month. The parents were excused to their portion of the event and the students were asked to all scrunch together towards the center. I, already sitting towards the center, felt no motivation to move to another seat, and as everyone piled in around me, my ability to hallucinate a case of claustrophobia resounded. I remember a girl who sat down next to me at the time, she stated her name as I did mine, but it had conveniently flown out of the crevasses of my mind, and she seemed even less enthralled than I to be forced into this freshman mating ritual our dean took so kindly to. Had it been anyone else, I would have just kept to myself, but our distaste gave me hope we would have something in common. As we spoke, she told me her love for everything art-related. There was something. As everyone very well knows my passions encompassed art: writing and photography. I told her about my photography, and she grunted a little. I am sure she believed me to be another starry-eyed girl with a silly camera hoping her pictures of flowers would one day make me an easy profit. I was fine with this assumption, I did not know her. She said she was into photography as well, along with everything else, particularly painting. Had I known she was any good, I would have been more enthusiastic I am sure. But it was not everyday I stumbled across a painter, so I was a bit interested.
I do not recall how we were separated into groups, but I know she ended up in mine. I was fine with that--someone to talk with when things got dry (because I was clearly ignorant as to what I was getting myself into with this region's humidity). The other four girls in our group were nice and polite. We were all lead into one of the two dining halls on campus and fed a nice meal of southern cooking: mashed potatoes, fried chicken, greens and an array of drinks in the soda fountains and tea dispensers. We made our way to a table and began trying to speak to each other and not seem as if we were all just awkwardly out of place. Being it was a round table of young women, obviously relationships and boys were one of the first ice-breakers with which we began. I was less than thrilled. We went around the table stating our status and mentioning briefly what our attachment, if we had one, was like. The girl who had been sitting next to me earlier made mention she was dating a freshman in high school. We all found that surprising, to say the least. I could see the grimace on her face when she mentioned it, she knew she would get flack for it, and sure enough, one of the girls began teasing her. And as light-hearted as it all was, these girls single or not, finally made it to me. They all stared at me, interested in what I would say. To this day I am not sure if they would have been in disbelief or shock with whatever answer came out of my mouth, but I am sure I was not making a great impression on any of them; they probably thought I was a bit of a loser: the epitome of a freshman.
"Well," I began, "It's one of those 'it's complicated' situations, I guess..." I looked down, dismayed I had to admit it. It was not a depressing truth in the sense I wanted more, but more that I wanted out, but could not find a loophole in the verbal agreement I made with some boy with whom I used to go to high school. Graduation was still a blur.
"Oh, girl, we've all been through that!" said one of the girls sweetly, thus ensuing a conversation I had not expected about the complications of a relationship never becoming official. I knew it was a situation we all eventually find ourselves in at least once, I just hated I was the one at the table who was in it.
Dining was over in what felt like too quick of a flash. I would have much rather stayed at the table and avoided the ferocious sun for the remainder of the afternoon. Once again, we were divided into smaller groups and sent to different halls across the university. The painter and I eventually parted as we were sent to rooms specific to our majors and given a brief advisement on our first schedules entering college. Other events followed that I think I repressed, aside from one I wish I really had where we were made to ride on a shuttle bus to the other side of campus and one of the sweet girls in my group helped me steady myself when I was made to stand and hold onto those flimsy handles, of which I have yet to send a complaint, and almost toppled over onto a girl sitting silently in a seat beside me after the bus coasted over an inappropriately placed speed bump.
Occasionally I would see my orientation group on campus during the first few class-less days of simply becoming acquainted with my surroundings and we would wave or nod politely, unsure we would ever meet again, but I never did see the painter, and, in all honesty, I had forgotten about her. My roommate, Cieanna, and I began with a rocky start due to my easily mistaken cold personality, which is typically just shyness I mask with a less-than-eager smirk, but as we started to understand each other more, and classes were in full-swing, I found myself growing rather fond of her. It was not until I was waiting in the science building for my geology class that a familiar face was walking towards me. I tried to act pleased to see her, but my dismay pointed in the direction of unwillingness to study rocks might have confused her. With disregard to whatever look might have been smeared across my visage, she came and sat down beside me and said with a sweet disposition, "I know your face!" It was the painter. "I'm glad I know someone in here."
"Yeah, it'll make the time easier," I said, still unenthusiastic by the subject I would be spending countless nights drowning in for the next few months.
I got her name after that: Chelsea. If she had not spotted me, chances are we both would have dropped the class and never saw each other again. The reality is that chance encounter, or, rather, re-encounter, caused a proper and more cheerful meeting of two art nerds who would eventually become best friends. We sat on the back row of the lecture hall fit for 100 or so students, and it was there we would sit everyday for the following months, zoning in and out of our professor's lesson, doodling on the corner of each other's papers vacant of any substantial notes. By the skin of our teeth, or hers, given I tried harder than she did, we made it through the class with passing grades, but our friendship did not simmer. Quite earnestly, had we never even been in the same group orientation, we would never even have been drawn to each other by the mere coincidence of familiarity, and I would be without some sort of dwelling for this semester.
Not all chance encounters are meant to last a lifetime, but the positive ones remain a lasting memory. In the darkest recesses of my mind lies an incredibly insecure person. Well, given I am being honest, it is not hidden that well. In fact, my nerves are the reason I can never hide my emotions on my face, or sit still when I have something to say, or even function on some basic bias of the behavior of a normal individual. I am a wreck, but it comes with its benefits. I found myself on the verge of a breakdown which became evident in the middle of the hall. A bright face was sitting on a bench and saw me passing. His demeanor was anything but sorrowful, and I suppose I did truly need it at the time.
"Hello!" he said rather brilliantly. "How are you?"
"I'm... Okay." It was at this point I had given up all hopes to keep my "cool."
"Nothing really. It's nothing."
"Sit down," he said softly. I did as he requested. "You know," he continued, "talking helps."
"Yeah, it does, I just don't know where to begin."
"Talking soothes the soul." He must have said that line three times in our short conversation, but he was right. I allowed myself to cry, a little, and say everything on my mind. It did not seem like a lot when I was finished, but it helped. "They call me Flucas," he said.
"Jennifer," I replied.
The name Flucas was not the only memorable attribute this man carried with him. It is easy to be polite and kind to others and smile when a friend comes along, but his demeanor and willingness to reach out to anyone passing in the hall is a trait I do not find in many. He is an example of someone who just lives to help others, and I hope he never loses that drive. He gave me his information if I ever needed to talk to someone again. There is an uneasiness about contacting him, but I took the paper because life is full of glorious unpredictabilities, and I may find use of his kindness in the future. It felt like a gift from God. I was walking around campus, ignorant of how the heat was truly affecting me, and wallowing in all I had bearing down on me. The moment I felt the need for air conditioning and shield from the sun, I was greeted by this stranger who wanted nothing more than to make me smile and make sure I did not end my day as I had begun it: with tears. I have yet to see one of the seven wonders of the world, but if I had to guess, Flucas would be a wonder of humanity--a guiding light as I wish I could be.
I am not a walking tear duct. However, stress breaks me easily, and these questions bearing into my very soul about what I want to do and where my passion truly lies were enough to keep me out of school. Sometimes, I need a second, third and fourth opinion. I want to be like Flucas. I have always believed being a light to those you love will give them hope. But Flucas does not just deliver a ray of light to those he knows, but to everyone he meets. If I even see Flucas again it will probably be under another needed miracle, to which I will gladly welcome, but for now, he being but a chance encounter--a memory--is enough. By being a God-send, he passed his torch of light on to me, and now it is my turn: I want to spread a bit of hope.