The Unplanned Encounter


Standing at the edge of the woods, amygdala primed, you know exactly what you’re hunting for and have a plan to actively and purposely avoid eye contact so as to keep moving if you see other hunters. Flight is really your preferred response. Most of them seem to share your predilection and are content to share a quick greeting and continue on. They have “things to do” just as you do, and want to get this particular chore over with. There are exceptions, those hunters with whom you want to share something.

Stepping in, almost immediately you think you see a hunter you know just ahead, but she’s moving quickly away with her own prey in sight. You manage to avoid detection. Winding along the trail, you fill your basket, ticking off items in your head while still ever alert for danger.

Behind you, someone calls your name. Was it that hunter you thought you saw? Turning, you don’t see anyone at first and start to turn back when you realize a danger even bigger. It’s Tiger. She knows you see her, so flight is not an option. Wary, you approach.

Tiger? She wasn’t always danger. She’s the one hunter you might have happily chatted with for a few minutes, but you haven’t seen her in over a year and a half. Not since your last lunch together that didn’t go so well.

That’s not entirely true.

You thought the lunch went well. Even in the midst of a personal crisis, you could share (mostly) what was going on in your life, and you could certainly listen to your friend, Tiger, chatter on about herself and her family. The catch was at this lunch you decided to be your authentic self, to be honest. For so many years, you just agreed with everything Tiger said because … because… why? You wanted her to like you. You were new in town and needed a friend, any friend. You didn’t want to offend her, even when she offended you. She thinks you two are like peas in a pod.

At the lunch, you didn’t set out to be confrontational, but if she said something you disagreed with, you would speak up. First, you shared a bit of your crisis, and she implied it was your own fault. Ouch. A religious thing came up, and you politely added your honest comment. Ouch returned. Then the subject changed.

That was the last you heard from her. There were no Christmas cards, no birthday cards, no extremely long (and kind of annoying) voicemails. No random drop overs, and no invitations to her favorite charity event. Sure, you could have reached out to her, but the personal crisis got worse before it got better, and you could barely take care of yourself, much less nurture a friendship.

You were okay with that. The friendship wasn’t based on honesty anyway, at least on your part, and if it were to proceed, you would be making some serious confessions; all those things that are the opposite of what she believed about you. Letting go worked for you.

Back in the woods, you are face to face with Tiger. She opens by exclaiming that you haven’t moved away after all, and you bite your tongue, and just say no, you’re still here, but guess what, you’re about to be a grandma. Several minutes pass catching up on the whereabouts of your respective children. You take surreptitious glances into your basket, hoping to see the ice cream (that isn’t in there) melting so you can make your getaway.

Then she says something about needing to hurry home and you say your goodbyes, neither of you saying you should get together soon. Scurrying away, you retreat in your mind back to the job at hand. Using all your willpower, you manage to walk by the jumbo bag of “fun size” candy, leaving it on the shelf. Your skill with speed hunting serves you well, and soon enough you are sitting in your car, breathing again.

For the win, seeing her car right next to yours, you drive away from the grocery store first, not looking back.

2 thoughts on “The Unplanned Encounter

  1. I’ve both been cut off by a friend and been the one who cut someone off. It was painful on both ends. I found it interesting how you framed this as part of a hunting expedition. If only you’d snagged the ice cream before the encounter, ha ha.


  2. Those awkward encounters with friends past are always the worst! Loved the perspective you wrote this in, as I’m pretty sure that we have all had moments like these. 🙂


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