It’s official. London is too small. Loosen the green belts, extend the northern line, flatten The Pennines and lets expand this tangled smoke spewing mess of a city all the way down to The White Cliffs of Dover.
It seems one can’t so much as set foot out the door these days without bumping into someone one once babysat for/ met at pony club/ bought courgettes from/ took ketamine with.
Sometimes it’s nice to bump into people… ‘oh hairlo’… ‘haaaaiirrlo hower you?’… ‘i’m fine thank you, hower you?’ …’I’m fine thank you hower…’. Then before you get stuck in the ‘hower you loop’ someone pipes up with some small talk ‘you look well’ (read as ‘you’ve gained weight’), ‘I’m so busy with work’ (I’m single and I spend most evenings wondering if my cat would notice if I died) ‘we should go for a drink sometime’ (I will never, ever go for a drink with you, let fire rain down from the sky and let this ma effin city burn to the ground before I ever go for a drink with you.)
Other times, it’s not even half this pleasant. A friend of mine swears that every time she leaves the house in her ‘cleaning the bathroom sweatpants’, you know the ones, (the ones with the bleachy bits that look a bit like piss stains), she bumps into an ex boyfriend. Heart jumps into mouth. Arms suddenly feel like somebody else’s. Words exit mouth at random. Can’t breathe. Musn’t breathe, haven’t cleaned teeth.
Fortunately for me, most of my exes have left the country… really, I’m that great. But actually, I did bump into an ex, no lets call him an ex lover, at a casting. That’s fine, you say, actors do these kind of things all the time (go to castings, take lovers), except that I was the only person auditioning for my role who wasn’t a dwarf. The situation read as follows…
Me: Oh hi Keanu (yep, I’m calling him that). Hower you? You’re up for the ‘Nivea Man’ role ci? (I sometimes throw in a bit of foreign when I’m nervous)
Keanu: Yeh I am, you’re going for the role of ‘Dwarf Mermaid’?!
Me: Yeh, well I’m only 5ft3 and I still look ok in a bikini so…. JHnkLdjhej>€$*** F.M.L
So why does bumping into people throw us off so badly? It’s not just the surprise… I love surprises. Is it the small talk? Can’t be, we all exchange pleasantries with countless strangers all day and survive to tell the tale. I think it’s the lack of context. I once bumped into a guy who works in the coffee shop in the library and was so genuinely alarmed to see him without a flat white in his hand that I almost threw Tess of the D’Urbevilles at him. Sometimes we (sorry), I, can be so bloody self centred I forget that the world continues to revolve without me and it’s a shock. So no knickers Natasha Banks is pregnant, who’d have thought it? And there I was thinking she had just ceased to exist after university and had hired robots to update her Facebook page. Well. I. Never.
And it’s not that Natasha doesn’t matter as a person, it’s just that we don’t swim in the same seas anymore, dwell in the same woodland. She drinks lapsing suchong and I drink too much and smoke in bed.
So what can we do? Wear a fake moustache and hide behind broadsheets in bistros? Not so much. Maybe we shoukd just accept that people continue to live and breathe sans nous (nerves again) and face the fact that the world keeps on turning and thanks to some puzzling algorithms in the universe’s composition we occasionally cross paths with people from our past. So… next time you bump into your Maths teacher at a sex party, give him a hug, because he probably feels just as awkward as you do.