Has this ever happened to you?
It started with a simple hour of cause and effect. Because I’m walking in the Susan G. Komen 3Day Walk for the Cure, I took a few minutes to search for the husband of my college roommate, to whom I am dedicating my effort.
Because I could not find him on LinkedIn.com, I turned to People Search.
Because I found his address so easily, I looked for another friend.
Because it was so easy I looked for the name that has eluded me and Google these 30 years.
To be google-able means you have to have created something and advertised that fact, or someone has.
It never really surprised me that my quarry, that long-lost flutter of my heart, was, after all these years, still a private person. I remembered him as private, eschewing notoriety of any kind. It was a quality I admired and also envied.
Deductions via Google…
He did not have a business of his own. He had not produced a CD of the music I remember his playing. He had not been the subject of news. Or made news. Or wrote for a newspaper, magazine, television or radio station, taught at a university or college.
His zip code and a quick peek from Google Earth suggested he has not gone the way of the non-profit or the public school.
This took way longer than a lunch hour.
thanks largely to the free bits offered by People Search, essentially, the white pages plus ages and handy possible relatives, I’d uncovered a vaguely random, blessedly short list of facts that included an address and telephone number and the name and age of a wife. And possibly the name of a child possibly named after the wife who was probably named after her father. One of those names. And the knowledge that my old beau’s mother, who had been widowed the year before we met, had remarried but lived nearby. That his brother was also still in New Jersey.
The news elicited a physical response I carried around for days. Something that felt a lot like I'd swalled a bone sideways. Of all the people I’ve thought about over the years, he was the one I just knew would turn up in Paris. Or Dubai. Or Prague. Clearly, all the sexy, interesting people do not leave.
For an additional $9.95 I could uncover legal records, property records, liens, marriages and divorces. Nothing I wanted to know. I’ll never want to know if he has a criminal record or owns a second home in Florida. I want to know what no detective or search engine could ever yield:
Are you happy?
Have you compromised?
Do you love your work? Your life?
Do you have an illness?
What has taught you compassion?
Who did you lose on 9/11?
What do you still love? Music? Botany?
What have you made of your luck?
What toll did your choices take?
Do you ever think of me?
What can it matter now?
Could I use what I thought I knew of you 30 years ago to make a guess at who you are now? Or am I only discovering, in the surprise I feel in uncovering that you never left New Jersey, never had to search for a home, the vast smallness of what I actually knew.
Of course, the crooked bone I swallowed was the knowledge that what I thought I knew of you, what I projected, was, of course, my own desires for myself.
Still, what does remain? What, of the couplet one is at 20, lurks between the lines of the sonnet we are at 50?