The most awesome person in the world disappeared from my life this week, in all probability for good. It may be claiming a bit much to say that she was ever really in my life; while she was certainly in my mind a great deal over the past six years, I doubt she ever gave an unprompted thought for me. It will probably not take much time for me to fall out of touch once I am no longer in regular face-to-face contact, as has happened with nearly every other acquaintance of my entire life, and it’s exceedingly unlikely I will ever again meet anyone so amazing. (And if somehow I should meet someone like that, given the circles I move in, the social and cultural gulf between us is likely to be even vaster and less conceivable to bridge.) I baked a cake for her party a few weeks ago, and spoke to her once more, just briefly, as she prepared to take her leave. To spare her the embarrassment, years hence, from the Web’s unblinking eye, I am deliberately not giving her name. I hope the rest of her life turns out well, and that she have the sort of career and family situation that she will find satisfying.
It is, I suppose, the story of my life: meet fantastic smart people with whom I share no social connection, briefly inhabit the same office building, and then have them complete their studies and vanish, never to be seen again, all the while I grow older and the social distance between me and everyone else in my life, which has never been close — not even in those life phases when people are alleged to make the social connections that define the rest of their lives — grows ever greater. Even the very few people I’ve managed to keep in touch with in the absence regular face-to-face contact — who I could count on the fingers of one hand — seem more distant today than ever.
I do not know where this leads; I never have. There have been so many turnings in my life, choices made that might have led to very different outcomes, that cannot be taken back now. The likeliest result, it seems, is that I shall die alone, lonely and little-remembered, in about four decades’ time, having left nothing behind, no family, no lasting artifacts, no reason to be remembered beyond the vast trail of data that all of us are now depositing in the server farms of the world. I am neither rich, nor famous, nor powerful, and the only situations where I regularly come into contact with new people are now dominated by people two decades my junior, who are unlikely to see me as anything more than the provider of a technical service, paid for by their employer.