Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I met B. and M. nine years ago. B. was all by himself, an American tourist eating his meals in the restaurant I worked in. M. was in a hospital near to the restaurant.
The couple's flight home to the United States had been diverted when M. suffered a heart attack on board, and an emergency landing placed them in Ireland.
They were far from home and family, and the threads of comfort were sparse; I gave B. a get-well card along with the evening menu.
Soon B. invited me to visit M. I walked to the hospital after an evening shift and spent a little time. When I said goodbye I promised to stay in touch. On the back of that single chance encounter we write letters to one another, have maintained correspondence for almost a decade even after I moved to the United States.
So I was understandably thunderstruck last week when I glanced up from my meal in a restaurant in Maine and observed two diners that I thought were my old friends.
Maine is not my habitat. Neither is it theirs- but it looked for all the world like the pair I met once, years ago. I have never had a photograph of B. and M. and I rely on my visual memory in order to picture them.
My plate was soon clean and the moment to leave drew closer. I agonised over what to do. If I was wrong, how utterly humiliating! If I was right, it would provide the most perfect moment imaginable. I weighed the risks:
"It is them. What a waste if I don't stop and say hello!"
"It isn't them. They'll give me ugly stares and reduce me to a foolish scrap if I dare to think the world could be so conveniently small and tidy."
"Are you B.?" I imagined myself saying as I swept past the table. "Are you M.? It's me!"
And how fitting that I would once again approach B. in a restaurant!
Before I knew what was happening I was on the street outside the restaurant. The opportunity had shrivelled and I had exited the building without pausing to take my chances.
"What am I doing out here?" I wailed, but too late.
It might have been my friends, and it might not. But this I am sure of: after going to enormous lengths to avoid embarrassment, it was all for naught- I still suffered every pang of foolishness I dreaded.
I will have to write to M. and ask her directly- and wield my pen with all the bravery I could not muster when it mattered.


Eliane Zimmermann said...

Hello from West Cork! Eliane, Glengarriff

Pappy said...

I often go to people I know but have not seen in a long time and say, "What's my name?" Just kidding. You should never be afraid of what people will think of you for asking. Just go up and say, "You're a movie star aren't you?" That should get them talking. Be Bold. Pappy

Anonymous said...

What an opportunity missed. I understand your reluctance though. It would have made a great story though if it was them.

Please let us know if it was indeed them.


Ruth L.~ said...

I wish I'd been with you. I'd have asked. :>) Make sure to post again when M replies. but then again, did they not see you? Wouldn't they have recognized you, if it was them? So if it wasn't them . . . nothing lost, but a lesson to speak up next time is gained.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Eliane, hello! Nice to see you.

Texican, Oh, I know. But I lost my courage at the last minute. I'm mad at myself. At least I have the chance to ask them in a letter. It would be worse if I didn't know how to contact them.

Steve, I will definitely come back and say if it was them or not!

Ruth, They've had photos of us over the years but Spouse was hidden under an awful lot of hair and was unrecognisable. They don't yet know about his accident.
And I don't think they expected to see me in Maine. I've mostly had contact with them from Ireland and California and they probably think of those places when they think of me! Even though they know I live here now. Who knows- perhaps they thought they saw me too! Time will tell.

ArtSparker said...

Good to have the option of writing. I was convinced once that someone was my cousin Chris and was waving and carrying on, and then it occurred to me that she was actually about twenty years younger than my cousin. And it hadn't been that long since I'd seen Chris.

Jaime said...

Oh, please let us know if it was really them...that would be the craziest coincidence!!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

ArtSparker, "was waving and carrying on" oh, that's funny. How embarrassing.

Jaime, I will! Soon as I find out, I'll post a bulletin ;) I'm taking bets now.

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