Some time ago I was at a party, and there was a woman there that I didn’t know, but I felt like I knew her. It was a strange feeling, kind of like deja vu, but it had nothing to do with this party, just the feeling that I knew this woman. Maybe I had seen somewhere before, but I couldn’t place it.
When that thought first came to me I was talking to some other people, so I shrugged it off for the time being. It was relatively early and I figured we’d meet soon enough. A little while later a trash can became full, so I took the bag out of the can and walked it to a garbage can outside by the detached garage. After I put the bag in the can outside I turned around, only to be startled to see the woman standing there.
“How do I know you,” she asked.
“Have we met before?”
I looked at her more carefully, but despite the feeling of knowing her I couldn’t recall ever seeing her before. “No, I don’t think so.”
“All night I’ve had the feeling that I know you, that I could talk to you. No, honestly, it’s more than that.” She paused. “It feels like I have talked to you before. But we haven’t met, have we?”
I looked at her even harder, but still couldn’t recall meeting her. I again told her no, I didn’t think we had met, but I acknowledged having the same feeling towards her. “That’s strange, isn’t it,” she said.
As we introduced our names we shook hands, and even that felt natural. We both noticed. “Weird, right,” she said.
“Familiar,” I replied.
So we sat down outside and talked for quite some time. At first we went through brief life histories trying to figure out if our paths had crossed somewhere. I rattled off all the states I’ve lived in: “Illinois?”
That went on as I continued to list Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other states I’ve lived in or spent time in. Then I thought maybe she was one of the women at the Providence Zen Center who had their heads shaved. “Rhode Island?”
After that she went through all of her past locations, and eventually we decided that we had never been in the same place at the same time.
“But I know you,” she said.
We sat there silently for a few moments, then gave up on the “How do I know you” line of discussion and just talked. It was a nice conversation, one that never felt strained. It was the way I’d imagine two good friends talking if they had met again after having 99% of their memories wiped. Maybe they couldn’t remember specific details, but they’d know each other’s pace and rhythm, their quirks and mannerisms. For instance, one time there was a long pause but I knew I shouldn’t say anything, that she would say something more. I knew that instinctively, like I’ve waited before. Other times she’d touch my hand while she was talking, and I would think, “Yes, that’s familiar, too.”
After some time a couple came outside and you could tell they were walking over to talk to us. I leaned into her and whispered, “Someone you know?”
At first they asked if we were enjoying the party better from a distance, and we both replied that we just wanted a little fresh air. Next they asked how long we had been married. We all got a nice laugh out of that.
For whatever reason, a lot of people have come up to me and said that they think they know me. They don’t say that I look like someone else, they say that they think they know me somehow. When I got stranded in Dease Lake, British Columbia — population 303 — in the winter of 2010, a man came up to me and started talking to me like we were old friends. It took him nearly two minutes to realize I wasn’t who he thought I was.
At the second Buddhist Geeks Conference I went to, a small woman who might have been in her 70s walked up to me and said she thought she knew me, and then asked where she might know me from. Then she became very embarrassed and said, “Oh my goodness, that sounded like a horrible pickup line. I’ll just go now,” and she turned and walked away. (We later talked a bit more.) One of the Buddhist Geeks organizers also said he thought he knew me.
There have been many more of these, and at first they were freaky and I didn’t like them, but after a while I’ve gotten used to them. Maybe everyone runs into this, dunno.
“You look familiar ...”
“Is that so?”