There was a time we might have met
An hour we might have dined together
Only it rained that night and you stayed
Snug at home fearing the weather
And once I saw you on the street
Lilacs were out, the air was heady
I might have stopped to speak
But you hailing a bus were gone already
I might have looked, you may have smiled
But we didn’t and I can’t see why
If we had known that you were you
And I was I! Or did you pass and sigh?
It’s odd to think we might have been
Sun, Moon, and Stars unto each other
Only I turned down one little street
As you went up another
My junior year of high school had me in the Iola Public Library looking for a poem to analyze for a class assignment. It could be any poem, but I was having trouble picking one. I had already skimmed through the anthologies at the high school library, and none had grabbed my attention. Sure, I could do a classic, but rather, I wanted to find something else, and then it happened. It was the third or fourth book I had pulled off the shelf. The plain maroon cover parted, and there before me was the poem “Fate.” Being a hopeless romantic, it was just the thing to strike heart.
Thinking back now, I don’t think I ever checked out the book, nor did I make a photocopy of it. Rather, I wrote the poem on the back of an Altoids’ wrapper because I was cheesy like that, and at that time, I always carried a tin of Wintergreen Altoids everywhere I went. Soon after, I showed the poem to a friend, and she made fun of its slant rhymes and forced lines, but that didn’t stop me of being proud of my discovery and from that wrapper ending up in my wallet to be carried around with me throughout the rest of high school, college, and grad school. When a wallet was on its last thread, the folded-up poem would shift to the next and the next as it stayed with me throughout the different stages of my life until sometime after I had moved to Hutchinson and it remained, likely because I had finally found love, in an old wallet sentenced to being thrown into a storage tote of randomness rather than being transferred once again.
The topic of “Fate” really is nothing new, for it is a story that has been told often, and yet every time, it has the power to grab the hearts of people for some reason. Just one of the recent examples would be Kodaline’s music video for “The One.”
Then the story transcends the fictional world and makes it into the news when a couple discovers years before their paths crossed and they had no idea. Back in 2014, a British couple were surprised to find both of them in a photo together from 1994 at the beach as they were getting ready for their wedding in 2014. In 2010, there was another couple featured in new stories where they both made it into a single photograph taken at Disney World 15 years before they were to ever meet. Definitely, check out this link that will take you to a story with the photos about both of these couples, and then scroll down to the comments where many more people share their stories about how they too unknowingly crossed paths with the person they would ultimately one day date, love, marry, and cherish (and sometimes divorce too).
The question, though, gets back to why this story of close encounters until the stars finally align make many of us pause and smile. Although the reasons are many, three have come to my mind as I have been contemplating this lately.
For starters, we live in a world saturated with love, especially romantic love. At one time, society didn’t provide most with the luxury of holding out for a potential soulmate. The focus of the relationship was quite different where practicality won out over the idea of a fluttering heart. However, as society shifted and allowed for more free time to occur with less pressure on procreating, childrearing, and marrying for social status, wealth, and power (or lack thereof). Now, though, we live in a time well characterized by Vertical Horizon’s 2000 hit “Everything You Want” that is all about having found someone seemingly perfect except for missing that final heart-soaring, cupid-directed-arrow quality until, of course, a person decides to do what many would describe as “settling for good enough.”
Commercials, books, TV shows, movies, Disney, music, and pretty much everything else throws this ideal of true love at us, which primes us to like these stories that eventually lead to what we see as a happy ending when in reality they are more happy beginnings of their finally getting together. In a way, it restores faith in the concept of true love is such a thing and is out there. Although it may seem just beyond our grasp at times, it still exists, and that alone can adds to the love of romantic love.
Then there is how these stories support the concept of fate. The encounters are so close that they cannot be mere coincidences, but rather, they seem to be part of a greater master plan. And as was discussed coincidentally in this week’s podcast of NPR’s The Hidden Brain, these situations break the everyday life pattern, and that leads to their seeming to have a meaning we want to explain as being beyond us. If they are part of a bigger plan, then suddenly everything else can be as well, which in a way can provide a comfort to a person that everything does happen for a reason with each choice we make being a step closer to some destined future.
One other reason for this story’s ongoing possibility is it gives faith to single people like me that somewhere out there is the person often described as our other half – our soul mate. We go about our life bombarded with images of romantic love and it is through a poem like “Fate” that we can believe that person is out there and that one day both of us will finally bump into each other.
Or that is at least how I look to look at these stories of lovers being so close to each other until the instantaneous chemistry of the first meeting finally occurs. For over three years now (minus two months that really don’t count because the person I was dating was back on dating apps less than three weeks into our doomed whatever), I have been single. Although I have largely given up finding anyone as long as I live in Hutchinson, that hasn’t stopped me from doing such things like looking up at the stars on my way back from Metropolitan Coffee and thinking that somewhere under that sky there is someone with whom I will finally connect. Although it is highly unlikely we will find each other in the other’s old vacation photos or learn we just kept missing each other barely throughout our lives, it still provides a fun thought or two to have, but you have to keep in mind this is coming from a guy who teaches a class on fairy tales, is a sucker for these tales of destined lovers, and is carrying a cheesy romantic poem handwritten on the back of an Altoids’ wrapper in his wallet once again.