An Old Friend
One of the most beautiful things about living in your home town is running into old friends…and I don’t mean friends you haven’t seen in 5, 10 or maybe even 15 years, I mean friends you haven’t seen in 20+yrs. This has been happening to me a lot the past year and instead of trying to figure out why, I’m simply trying to enjoy the multiple trips down memory lane. It’s a cliche, but one I’ve found rings true with each year that passes: Life is all about timing. And that couldn’t have been more true when, in late Spring, I ran into one of my best friends from childhood, who I hadn’t seen in 21yrs.
The greatest part about the encounter was, had I not been waiting outside a local pub with my beagle Mijo, I would not have seen Hiroaki. You see, his girlfriend back home in Japan has a beagle. He was crossing the street from Whole Foods, where he was with his mom picking up groceries before heading home to pack for his 11AM flight back to Tokyo the next morning, when he noticed my dog and stopped for a brief second to say hello to him. He did not notice me at all and, honestly, who can blame him…after 21yrs, I wouldn’t have recognized myself either, hidden under a baseball cap w/a full beard on my face (2 months & counting at that point). I, however, recognized him immediately and called him by his first name, “Hiroaki?…Is that you?”. He appeared somewhat stunned and looked up at me with a dazed & confused expression, but did not respond. Shit, I’m thinking, maybe its his younger brother…”or wait, are you Hiroaki’s brother?”. Nothing. Maybe I guessed horribly wrong? Naw, can’t be, I never forget a face. Still, all I got in response was silence as he stared blankly off into the distance. After a long pause, he looks up at me in recognition, “Yash?”
Apparently, his nickname is now simply “Hiro” and nobody has called him by his full name in over 18yrs, so it took a few seconds for not only my face to register, but also the fact that he was hearing his name out loud in a way he hadn’t heard in nearly 2 decades. It was approximately 5:30PM when we ran into each other, so I asked him if he wanted to join me for a pint; I still remember where his parents house is, so we told his mom I’d drop him off in a couple hours after catching up. I ended up dropping him off around 7:30AM the next morning.
We talked throughout the night, neither of us fading into sleep, watching the sun come up as we reminisced on the past 2 decades of our lives. The fascinating part about it was I learned more about Hiroaki in those 14hrs than I had known about him my entire childhood (i.e., the boy has a great ear for music, something I never knew as a kid and we put that ear to the test by banging out a pair of beats in my studio during the hang). It was such an amazing experience to catch up with an old friend, especially at a time in my life when so much change is going on around me. Its hard to truly understand why people come in and out of our lives at different stages. Some are there to help us grow, some are there to teach us a valuable lesson (good or bad). In my experience, the meaning behind “why” never reveals itself until much later.
Why hadn’t Hiroaki and I met in the past 5yrs? 10yrs? 20yrs? Why 21yrs later? Did one of us need to reconnect with the other for a particular reason? Why now? Was this just a chance meeting or will our paths cross in the future? I can tell you one thing…despite the fact we hadn’t seen or spoken to one another in over 20yrs, our life experiences had glaring similarities in both our personal & professional journeys. Maybe we had to meet at that exact moment to bring our shared experiences to the table…who knows…
I think about that day often. After so many years, I believe that we met for a reason. What that reason is, I don’t know just yet. But I want to believe its because one of us is there to help the other. I want to believe it was something more than a coincidence, something more than right place, right time. For me, the timing of it coincided w/the betrayal of a close friend, so maybe the encounter with Hiroaki was to remind me of the good people I’ve known in my life; to remind me that true friendship exists & endures time and distance. Maybe that’s all I needed, was a reminder of that. Maybe Hiroaki was going through something equally difficult and the universe put us together for that specific reason. Who knows. What if I hadn’t been waiting on the sidewalk with my dog at that precise moment? What if I was by myself, would he have still stopped? I doubt it. But I was there, Mijo was with me, Hiroaki did stop & I did recognize him and that’s all I can be thankful for. When the universe sends you a gift like a chance meeting with an old friend, don’t ask why, just take the time out of your day to enjoy the moment and reconnect.