The Wonder of Happenstance

Ever put any credence to fate or chance or whatever you want to call that nebulous, circumstantial collision between 2 worlds? My wildly giddy and romantic side would rubber stamp that serendipitous mindset all day long, but my more practical and somewhat jaded intellectual side would scream foul play.

The tables have turned, of late, and I have silenced that morose and practical voice and have leaned into the somewhat intentionally amorphous and full of color, very impractical side of my brain that takes notice when Fate, or rather, Divine Intervention walks through the door.

Sometimes you meet the most interesting people in a moment you least expect, and most certainly when you are not intentionally trying.

Case in point: Several years ago, in a random moment on a random airplane, heading to a random city … when my guard was down and my mind was fighting its own battles,  I met the male, father-figure version of myself and was forever changed. I settled into Row 15, Seat D. With an audible and quite visible “harrumph” I sit down…wedged in the middle seat between two dudes. Great. Another 3-hour plane ride sitting in another middle seat between another set of men. At least these two male bodies don’t ooze into my seat too much, forcing me to have to suck all the air into my lungs, letting it out slowly so that my shoulders don’t rub into their armpits due to the lack of seat space that I can call my own. All I want to do is settle in, make my body into the smallest object possible, bring in my arms and legs so as not to brush up against anyone, plug in my earbuds, close my eyes and drift off into semi-consciousness. I am bottled up with my own set of frustrations and having quite the dialogue in my own head.  I keep telling myself to put on the hat of courage that says, You can do this. You are strong. You are a fighter. You can rise above.” ” NO!”  …..  I am having none of it. I am tired of that old hat. And it shows. I am developing an unattractive line of resolve in my face. I can feel its presence. Walking down the jetway I sense the line burrowing a deep crevice in my countenance and I realize that I am losing my light, my cheer, my spirit. And I blame it on the hat. Some day I will resolve to ditch that old hat and not worry about convincing myself any longer to wear it along with the fake smile on my face. Some day I will choose a new, exciting hat that fits my head perfectly.  (Little do I realize that the new hat is a new and improved attitude — which, at the moment, if I am truthful,  I am probably unwilling to don). I begin my pre-flight process … stuffing my carry on under the seat after turning my phone to the OFF position. Just prior to the last shove of my shoe on the carry on, I remember that my phone and earbuds are in the side pocket of the bag that is supposed to be “under the seat in front of you”. Gritting my teeth and quite possibly rolling my eyes, I suck all the air in my lungs AGAIN so as to collapse my torso in half in order to reach the corner of the bag that is nearly all the way under the seat in front of me. Must. Get. Music. Must. Plug. In. While reaching with my fingers for the side pocket so as to retrieve said phone from the pocket’s depths, I suddenly wonder if younger dude in Seat 15 C and older dude in Seat 15 E are staring at my back side, which feels quite possibly exposed due to my bent-in-half position. Must. Get. Music. Must. Plug. In. I begin to roll my torso up the center of my own seat and prepare myself for impending slumber. By now we have taxied and are on our way to take-off. One more “harrumph” and quite possibly one more rolling of my eyes.

I made, however, one small, itty-bitty mistake. It was a tic-tac size mistake yet with potentially moon-crater-size consequences. I made eye contact with older dude in Seat 15 E. “Rough day?”, he queries.

Please, please, please. I don’t want to talk. Do I have to be nice? Yes. Really, do I HAVE to be? YES. FINE! I’m arguing with my inner sanctum, the voice inside my head. Angel on one shoulder and Devil on the other.  Angel wins.  Usually does.  Some days, usually regrettably,  I allow Devil to win, but don’t we all?


“Not really rough”, I reply and then continue to add, “I guess it’s more of an emotional day than it is rough.”

Goodness. Can you just stop talking already? Why go into any kind of detail. You are opening up Pandora’s Box when you truly want to plug in and shut the world away for a few hours. And thus begins my happenstance meeting and surprising connection with (we’ll call him) John.

“If it helps, I had hoped you would sit in this very seat,” He begins again, as he looks at me, a slight curve to his lips.

Is he some kind of old-school voodoo therapist?  Could he see into my soul?  Certainly not. I hide that little slice of me fairly well, but … could he? He goes on to add that he had noticed me in the boarding area. Sheepishly he admits that he plays a little pre-boarding game. Pick out one person in the crowd of people waiting to board the same flight as you. Among the many who are on their phones, eating fast food, reading a magazine or book, pecking away on their computers, choose only THE ONE that you almost know for certain is interesting and then wish upon a star that Fate would allow your paths to cross. Hmmm. Fate. Okay. I’m not so sure fate has anything to do with anything … ever!  But, whatever.  I’ll run with your ridiculous line of reasoning. I look at him … point blank … and wonder if quite possibly I have stumbled upon a creeper, of the capital C type. Sensing my hesitation, he informs me that he travels a lot, needs some kind of distraction to pass the time, loves to meet new people and proceeds to temper my hesitation to engage in any kind of conversation with him at all. I’ve nowhere else to go, and decide that I could take him down with my own bare hands if needed, and so I relax into the possibility that maybe I am to fully engage in conversation with older dude in Seat 15 E …. no holds barred. I begin to gush.

“Well … I had initially walked back to Seat 23 A. You know, I like the window and all. But the woman in Seat 23 B was holding a lap child that I was certain would end up screaming the entire flight, forcing me to shove the earbuds deeper into my ears and turn the volume to its highest possible level without causing hearing damage. My blood pressure would rise. I’d become borderline angry at the little beast and would have to talk myself down from the ledge. I actually took one glance at Seat 23 B, where lay the infant child and mother, and with the most syrup in my voice that I could muster and a smile as fake as they come, I said, ‘Oh. I’m sorry. I saw another seat a few rows up and since I’ve already raised my own children (I don’t know where THAT statement came from…probably from the already elevated blood pressure) I’m gonna just gather my things, forego the window seat, back it on up and sit up there.’ I felt a slight twinge of guilt, but as the saying goes, ‘Not my circus. Not my monkeys’. So, I ended up sitting here … next to you …. My name is Michele.”
“John”, he says with that rather large smile still curving his lips. “My name is John.”


He is smart, extremely smart, and yet somehow manages a sense of normalcy socially. He has a nickname. “The Thinker“. I am unsure whether it is a self- appropriated name or if those who know him best bestowed upon him one of the greatest compliments in the form of an alternative name. I can tell by his mannerisms and his use of words … his eyes even … that he is indeed a Thinker of the soulful kind. Metaphorically. Metaphysically. Euphorically. Empirically.  Abstractly. Logically. Whimsically. He runs the gamut of thought, and I am drawn to it similarly as identical twins who are separated at birth are drawn somehow and some way to each other (though his age would make him more my dad). He has a certain underlying sadness in his eyes and yet, like a smooth, opaque silk cloth there lies a sparkle, a noticeable zest on top of the sadness. I see it directly. I recognize it. It appears to be reflecting back to me like a mirror of my own self. I have to take a moment to look away. How can I see my own reflection within the eyes of a total stranger? Who is this person? What depths of darkness lie underneath the surface of light in his eyes? What experiences have woven themselves into the fiber of who he is, or rather, who he has become? How deeply do our similarities run? Unknown-6A writer who has lost his Muse. She (his Muse) has eluded him and he is somewhat desperate in his search for her. He misses her caress in his life … her comfort … her prodding … her beauty and companionship. John speaks of her as if she is a lover who has turned a cold shoulder. I know of this. My Muse has turned tail and run. She has cruelly left me dry and searching. She has cloaked herself on every turn. Perhaps John’s Muse and mine have run away together, laughing at the mess in which they’ve left us … playing a game of hide and seek for years now, leaving us with only the writings from the past. All things new are dry and non-existent to date. Our mutual recent efforts have come to no avail. Perhaps there is a reason behind her silence. Could it be that John and I were to meet to spur some kind of inspiration in relation to the shared disappearances of our respective Muses?  To bring me to put pen to paper again — or hand to keyboard? Or a more probable reason for our meeting may just be because God saw my hurt and frustration and HE willed it to be…to show himself in the person of John as a source of encouragement and comfort in my time of need.

I must reiterate that sometimes you meet the most interesting people in a moment you least expect and most certainly when you are not intentionally trying.

My happenstance meeting of John left me, in a word, overwhelmed…in a good way. For the duration of the flight we shared life experiences with each other as if we had been forever friends. I believe John may have had the uncanny ability to see into some of the depths that I keep hidden, and I in like manner could do the same with him. His life struggles, past and present, his command of the English language through verbal communication and through his desire and need to write, his depth of thought on levels well below the surface, the quirkiness of his mannerisms, the hint of sadness, darkness, resolve mixed with his desire to throw caution to the wind …. all struck a chord within me.  And I began to wonder if our meeting in Row 15 Seats D & E were not somehow ordered by the Universe, by the divine hand of God himself.  A pause in the moving of time and space that forced us to stop and take notice. Perhaps, like he said, we had been connected in another life, though I philosophically and spiritually believe it was Divine Intervention.  Perhaps we shared something visceral … life-giving.  Perhaps happenstance had nothing to do with it.  In that particular moment we were meant to meet. The happenstance occurred when we simultaneously stopped for that split second in the juxtaposition of time and space and we simply took notice. And I, for one, am changed for the better, having “randomly” sat in Row 15, Seat D.

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