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  • Barrie Kreinik

People who need people

We're all the luckiest.

Photo by Barrie Kreinik.

Do you ever have a day when everything reminds you of something else?

I’m having one today.

This afternoon I walked past the movie theatre where I once took a date to see an exquisitely made romantic film. We emerged afterward into the beginning of a snowstorm, clinging to each other as we slipped across slickening pavement. Then we stood on a streetcorner kissing as snow swirled around us. It was romance personified—not built to last, but to linger.

Earlier today I walked past the posh hotel where my friend Alison once took me for tea. Alison and I had tea in many places over the years, but that one was particularly memorable. Though she died four years ago, lately I’ve been seeing her everywhere—in one woman’s shape, another’s gait, another’s neatly tailored clothes. I double-take every time. Then I remember.

At a doctor’s office this morning, I thought of my friend Carole. It’s her birthday today; she would have been eighty-three. As I waited in the empty examining room, I pictured her manicured hand enclosing mine. I held hers through many a doctor’s appointment, in many a hospital room, and eventually in her bedroom, where I watched her take her final precarious breath.

“People come and go so quickly here,” says Dorothy of Oz. The same might be said of Earth. Our lives are like railway stations, constant witnesses to the in- and outflow of humanity. Thus, the people who are no longer in my life have, in passing, left imprints on it. With some people, there is even a distinct before and after: from the moment we meet, we are never the same again.

One of my favorite things about being a freelancer is the ever-unfolding opportunity to work with new people in new places. I can’t picture myself going to the same workplace every single day: I’m too Geminian in my love of variety, my desire to connect. And I didn’t realize until recently just how much I’d been missing the everyday opportunities to make such connections—opportunities that have diminished in these past few years of isolation. As I sat in the common room of a recording studio, sharing lunch with a handful of charming people—people I might never have met had we not happened to be working in the same place at the same time—I felt a surge of joy at once novel and familiar. It was the same joy I felt weeks earlier, when I gathered in a rehearsal room with a dozen strangers and a few acquaintances to spend a day putting on a play reading. The act of creation was in itself joyous, but even more so were the interstitial moments: breaktime conversations, hallway hellos, backstage whispers, dressing room camaraderie. Actors know how to bond instantaneously—it’s part of the job description. But I’d forgotten how much I enjoy that part of the job. The momentary mind-meetings that blossom into stories shared and savored. The chance to connect—and I know I keep using that word, but it’s the best one I know—with fellow artists, fellow workers. Fellow travelers.

Humans, it is said, are social creatures: we need each other to survive, to thrive, to exist. As an extroverted introvert, I can happily spend days on end by myself, but the moment I’m in the presence of a friend—or a friendly acquaintance—or a stranger with whom I feel an immediate spark—I experience a click of completion. My energy begins to rise. I float away from the interaction on wings of thrill. Because I have seen, and I’ve been seen, and in the moment of seeing each other, we both become a little bit more.

People who need people, sang Barbra Streisand, are the luckiest people in the world.

We all need other people—the ones we keep close, and the ones who drift in and soar out. I hope this slow reopening, this ever-so-gradual return to socializing and spontaneous interaction, will bring more and more chances for us all to intersect. Then, on some other day when everything reminds me of something else, I’ll have a whole new set of somethings to remember.

And to look forward to.

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