Do you drive an old, beat up, red Ford F150 pickup truck? If so, and if by some coincidence you’ve passed me on the street, you may have seen my look of pain as I’ve gazed intently at you. It’s not your fault. It’s just that you drive the exact vehicle my late boyfriend did, and for a split second I think that maybe his death was a bad dream and he’s driving toward me. Then, as you got closer and I discovered you weren’t Chuck after all, the pain of loss came flooding back.
Unfortunately, there’s just such a truck sitting in the driveway three houses down from me. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but no. That poor neighbor must think I’m completely barmy, the way I’m always peering at him.
It could be a lot worse. You could be a man wearing a belt who encounters my little dog and transforms him into a completely terrified basket case, cowering in a corner. Obviously my poor pup can’t tell me what that image reminds him of, but I did rescue him from a horribly abusive puppy mill, so I can imagine.
It certainly makes you think. There’s the person that you are, and then there’s the memories that you evoke in total strangers. For all I know, my car stirs up memories for someone that I drive past, or I may have a significant shirt or hairstyle or smell that is creating a reality, however temporary, for someone, and I’m not even aware of it.
It’s like living on two separate planes simultaneously—the life you live for yourself, and the life you are living for someone else. What a concept. Note to self: be a lot more tolerant of those who look at me strangely. You never know what plane they are on.