The People Who I Know (But Don’t Really Know).

There are many, many people who I know (but don’t really know).   I live in an all-girls residence near Capitol Hill, and I work in an office, so I suppose that is to be expected.

Still, my (non)relationships with these people are very interesting to me.

There are certain people who work in my office .  We pass each other in the corridors.  We say hi. We exchange the occasional nod/smile of recognition while in line for lunch or coffee. Yes, yes, I should talk to them; one, that’s how networking works, and two, when I finally strike up a conversation, I learn the most interesting things.  Well, either that, or we swap stories about the weather.

…usually, we just swap stories about the weather.

There’s a girl who sometimes sits at my usual dinner table.  I think she goes to law school. We’ve laughed together a few times. I don’t know her name.  I don’t know where she’s from. When she’s gone, I will notice–but will probably never get a chance to say “bye.”

There’s a girl whose room is next to mine. I know she hears me playing guitar for hours every day.  I wonder if that’s annoying. It’s annoying for me when she sings to herself, at least sometimes.  She has a beautiful voice, and I like it during the day, but…show tunes at 11:30 pm? Really?

(We should probably jam together, I know, but I don’t know who she is.  I couldn’t even point her out in a line up. Not unless everyone in that line up belted out “I Dreamed a Dream.”)


My relationships in DC are all real, all the time. I know people insofar as the roles they play in my life.  No Facebook friendships, save for a few girlfriends and fellow interns.  Only a few names.  Phone numbers exchanged if we’re meeting up later, and even then, my phone isn’t texting properly these days.

What are “friends,” then?  I don’t know.  Maybe the “friend” title belongs to my temporary confidants, the people who know me by name, who visit museums with me, who tease me about being Canadian.  Maybe I could stretch it to include the faces of people who simply recognize me, and I them.  Or even those who share humanity with me in any way, however briefly: anything ranging from a split-second smile, to a night of TV in the common room, to a handshake and the words ‘Peace’ at church. Who says friendship has to last more than a few seconds?

“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

Let’s add on to that pretty little cliche, shall we?  People also come into your life just to laugh with you when you awkwardly trip up the stairs.  Or to silently inspire your next haircut.  Or to just be attractive.  Or to be intriguing.  Or to remind you that you need, need, need to come up with better ice breaker lines.

And that’s the entire role some people play in my life. You’re real pretty, sir. I am officially self-conscious. Have a nice day.

Where does the “friend” title come in?  To be sure, it’s some point after two people acknowledge each other. Usually a long while after. “Friendship” usually refers to four hour bonding conversations, late nights, phone calls, inside jokes.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a relationship (however small and one-sided) with the voice I hear through my bedroom wall, or the girl at the dinner table, or my more mysterious co-workers.  For some reason, I know who certain people are.  And if that sounds creepy to you, well, there are definitely people I have never “met” who know who I am.

Example A:  Last summer, while walking through Major’s Hill park, I made eye contact with some guy walking by. He had a ratty homeless look, though not in an overly scary way. He was carrying half a set of crutches, limping just a little bit.  When he saw me, his face lit up.

“Hey! Hey, it’s you! Good to see you!”

“H…hi!” I greeted him pretty warmly, hoping I would somehow remember who he was.

We both kept walking, but as he passed by he added: “Your hair looks different, did you cut it? It looks lighter too. You must’ve redone your highlights. Looks really good.”

He was right. My hair was straightened, with bangs carved in just over the weekend. The colour comment was affirmative too; between sunlight and the right shampoo, my blonde highlights had strengthened majorly.

Who was this guy?  Still. No. Clue.   But no, no, I wasn’t creeped out by it.  I think it’s far more natural to notice someone who hangs around the same area as you to than it is to have “Facebook friends,” really.  This man recognized me, whether I recognized him or not, because we lived in the same spot. Because I worked in the Byward Market, and the Market was clearly his ‘hood.  Because he liked my hair, and he noticed when it changed. And that’s nice. In a way, that should be totally normal.

These Washington DC “relationships” feel totally normal, too.  Here, I have a limited supply of four hour bonding conversations, late nights, phone calls, and inside jokes.  But I sure have a lot of minute-long “friendships.” I have a lot of people who I know (but don’t really know).

And if they get a hair cut? Yeah.

I will probably notice.

– – –

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3 thoughts on “The People Who I Know (But Don’t Really Know).

  1. I love this! I catch the bus to work each morning, and frequently home as well in the company of a few people that I have never spoken to. When I see them around the city, I always have this moment of “I know them!” before I realise that we simply stand in the same spot each day without talking, and to say hello would be odd. It’s kind of strange, and a bit depressing.

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