I saw her again last night. I had not seen her in a few years. We’ll pass each other in the grocery store or walking in the neighborhood. Last night we were on the same subway train and I spotted her as we were both disembarking. 33 years ago we had been good friends. Sophomore year of college. We lived in the same dormitory and we were both having a dismal year. I was an unhappy chemistry major; she struggled with 15 page history papers and would regularly pull all nighters to meet deadlines.
She was loud, funny, smart, spoke fluent French, and we laughed through our tears. After graduation we ran into each other in New York. She had family there, she had a job. Then she disappeared. I asked mutual friends about her. She was not well. I knew that her mother had a mental illness, but Patty seemed OK. We all had problems and issues. No, it was deeper than that. She was hospitalized. I remember the last conversation I had with her; she told me about tiptoeing across her apartment floor in order not to disturb her neighbors. She suffered from a personality disorder, she told me.
Decades later, I saw her in my neighborhood and squealed with delight. Patty! How are you? She looked at me with only slight recognition and quietly told me that she was in graduate school. She didn’t seem inclined to chat, so I left her alone. When I do see her now, I smile. I don’t approach her anymore, I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.