You first made my heart tremble when you asked me to go into the cloakroom and, mysteriously, whispered in my ear "Can I have a piece of your gum?". Enchanted, I pulled half of it out of my mouth, and with my teeth clenched on the other half and with a huge smile, gave it to you. We were in kindergarten, and I thought you were the coolest guy on the planet. I was, after all, five years old! Please don't be upset that I don't remember your name, but you have taught me an important lesson: men can get whatever they want out of you with a simple smile.
Then there was you, the man who let me have his seat on the train when I was travelling at a difficult time in my life, after not having slept for weeks. I didn't ask for it nor did I complain about my own narrow seat I was crawling into, numb with pain and fatigue. And you gently offered me your space - and you stood on your feet for two whole hours - and I could lay on your seat and mine and, for the first time, slept. With my head on your coat, I slept. And it was the best sleep I have ever had. It was a long time ago. But don't worry, I remember you. You have shown me that kindness exists in the most random of situations, and it's the most amazing thing.
You, the guy who gave me the perfect score in my exam, because although I seemed "tired and overworked", you didn't care about the little mistakes I made and saw my potential. And I was lucky that day, because so many people never have the imagination or the willingness to see the good in people. I owe you a debt - and it's not the score; doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. But because you, who didn't know me, believed in me. You have taught me that seeing the spark in people can give them wings.
And you, that guy in high school I thought was the love of my life for about a week, whose face I don't even remember now. You, that girl who handed me a handkerchief when I was crying on the bus after finding out my best friend had passed away. And you, that old lady I helped walk home and who told me her life story in the process.
I am, in part, a sum of all of you and what each of you taught me and what you have meant in my life, with your comet-type presence. Some of you could have been my friends, my family. But you are all roads I didn't take.
I know and have always known, without doubt, which of the choices I am presented with are the ones I have to make. Many of them are hard. And in such times I think of all those other images, of people, of situations. It's a whole other universe of stories, of experiences. It's all those other lives I could have had. Who I could have been. It's that feeling of "what if", which has nothing to do with me not loving my life or where I am. It has to do with the constant need to keep exploring, to keep discovering myself and others.
I think of all of you quite often. See, I can never stand still. I am always moving. Even when I'm couch potato-ing, my mind runs in 20 different directions. My internal life is huge and constantly in motion. So, when I have a few seconds to clear my head, sometimes that ghost pain comes. Maybe I am one of those people who wants it all. Every path, every choice, every decision, every outcome. So when I am deprived of any of them - because life is not multi-dimensional - I hurt.
Every day, the road I do take leaves room for the one I didn't. And it's like severing a limb. The memory of it stays with you forever...
Dedicated to the strangers I have never known, but miss.