June 2001. Thessaloniki.
He ran to close the windows because of an approaching thunderstorm. There is nothing special about this in itself: thunderstorms come, people go and close windows. It’s an ordinary enough experience. What was not-so-ordinary this time around was that he was in Boston, halfway across the world from where I was sitting, and we had been having a conversation. I had struck a conversation with a perfect stranger on the internet over a song by a band I did not know, and it had turned out to be lovely.
In fact, in a display of serendipity or generosity or grace on the part of the universe that was as spectacular as it looked unremarkable, all of them turned out to be lovely, the song and the conversation, the band and the stranger. The song captured something of the pain I had pushed to the back of my heart, and so made it a bit easier to carry; I would grow to love the band so much I would end up naming a three-year-long adventure after another one of their songs; the stranger would end up inviting me to visit him across the ocean, which I would never do; and the conversation, oh, the conversation was my first encounter with that inexplicable, miraculous experience of truly meeting someone on the internet — of how, against all odds and expectations, this can work better on the internet than it does in real life.
Michael and I didn’t become best friends. He didn’t even stay in my life for long. He hang around for a while, said something lovely things, then faded out; a year later I sought him out again and we repeated this —he hang around for a while, said some lovely things, faded out– and that was the end of that. But despite the briefness and the ephemeralness of these connections there was something in them: something in the way that they sprouted and blossomed, so unexpectedly; something in the way that they sparkled and shone, so brightly; something I didn’t know existed but which I seemed to have been looking for nonetheless. Something that made me smile widely to myself as I sat alone in front of the computer screen, as he ran to close the windows.