Title: Nice Meeting You
"The other night I was sitting in a sofa filled, windowless room in a hostel somewhere near London Bridge, with Kristen asleep on my lap listening to the conversations of those around me in a drowsy sort of daze. I was struck by a phrase, heard many times before, that had an interesting resonance with me and my current circumstances. A group of backpackers who, presumably, had met earlier that day and were going their separate ways in the morning were making their goodbyes and getting ready for bed. One of the men turned to another, with whom he had been arguing over who George Bush was more like; Hitler or Satan (pretty routine European youth hostel chatter), and shook his hand saying, "it was nice meeting you"
It took me a little by surprise to hear these words in that situation. They seemed so formal, like something that a parent says to a daughter's boyfriend that they disapprove of. Not something said between a pair of global travellers at in some foreign city. I started, in my fatigued state, to think about why they used that phrase; concentrating on it with a ferocity only found in me at times when I'm both bored and trying very hard not to think about something else - a state that allows me to do things like examine, in worrying detail, the state statutes of South Carolina as regards semi-automatic weapons control (resolving a pointless and long running argument) the day before an important exam.
It was the use of the past tense that interested me. 'It was' acknowledgement that the brief encounter had already ended, that the experience has passed with a certain finality. It was what? 'it was nice,' ‘nice’ - quite possibly the most bland adjective in the English language, meaning good but with no colouration or emphasis, just a positive, stating that the experience was not unpleasant. Finally ‘Meeting’ – a word which conjures up connotations of the beginning of something, not an actual relationship but the possible start of one, an acknowledgement of the ephemeral nature of this meeting – a momentary snapshot of the consciousness of another, never to be seen again.
Hearing people use this phrase so casually, to be completely calm about never seeing someone again, made me realise how badly equipped I am for the life I’m now living. I’ve lived in one fairly small part of south east London for my entire life, I move between groups of friends but I’m still living only about 30mins walk from friends I’ve not spoken to in decades. In the last year, however, I’ve made a lot of friends who are from other continents, people that I’ve not just met but formed a connection with, and now, with the end of the year, I have to get my head around the idea that I’m not going to see them again. It’s not just that I’d stop talking to them, but that there is no other means of knowing about them. If, for example, I stopped talking to one of my friends from London I’d still hear about them, I’ll still have the possibility of reconciliation, but with my friends made in the last year if I lose contact with them personally I lose them completely and totally. It’d be like they never were."