Bits and Pieces

Throughout my life, my relationships with people have changed. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a singular experience. Everyone has experienced friendships that have grown or faded over time. People come in and out of our lives all the time; no relationship is static.

Somehow, that absolute changed when I got to college. For the first time, I’ve experienced relationships that do hold still – at least temporarily.

The kind of relationship I’m referring to are the ones that seem to only be possible on a college campus: You meet someone, you introduce yourselves, you have a conversation, and then that person disappears. Even though this is a small campus, this person manages to vanish for days, weeks, or a whole semester. Maybe their schedule is completely different from yours, maybe they’re sick in bed, maybe they’ve been abducted by aliens – the fact is they’re gone. And unlike relationships with your close friends or far-off family, these people have left you with no way to contact them. Time has well and truly separated you.

But then they come back. Break ends, the weekend begins, or you just find each other walking down a path on campus. And just like that, you’re back where you left off. You two haven’t gotten any closer since you separated, but the relationship hasn’t suffered either. You’re fragmentary friends, building a relationship in increments and with frequent interruptions.

Maybe I’m only noticing this because I was so used to seeing the same people in school everyday for years, and used to having constant access to people through phones or at least occasional Facebook updates. Whatever the reason, I find these piecemeal relationships fascinating. What motivates each person to keep it going? What determines who will say hi to you again after two weeks, and who will decide to pretend you’ve never met, making you start over each time you cross paths? How many times can these interactions be paused before the whole friendship is abandoned or finally cemented with the exchange of a username or a phone number?

I’ve either hit on something truly unique about human nature or have just found another way to overthink social interaction. Whatever the case, I appreciate the people who have interacted with me once and decided it was worth their time to keep it going. Thanks for being friends with me, fragmentary or otherwise.


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