Meeting an old semi-acquaintance

I could number the things I knew about him on one hand. He was almost
a stranger, glimpsed briefly on the periphery of the small group that
occupied my attention during my first year of college. We had never
really talked when we were both in college, which gave us even less
reason to talk after he graduated.

I knew his nickname. Not his full name, just the name he used in our
company. For a while I did not even know how to spell his name.

I knew he had a brother, a more laid-back student I’d often seen among
the small groups that occupied the benches near the guidance office,
His brother always seemed surrounded by friends.

I remembered the way he played – the slow and methodical way he used
to set his cards down on the table, the flick of plastic-sheathed
cards confidently moved into position, the way he leaned back and
calmly waited for his opponent to make a move. He was always gracious.

I remembered seeing him at the sign-up for organizations in my first
year. He took my signature as I joined the computing society. I don’t
know why that memory endured – perhaps it was because he somewhat
resembled an old friend of mine.

I remembered his quiet smile and subdued laughter. I don’t remember
ever seeing him rage or exult. His face settled naturally into a
half-smile. Sometimes he’d get a thoughtful look in his eyes, leaning
back and pondering. It is easy to imagine him mediating some dispute
among our friends, a calm seriousness reassuring everyone of his
impartiality.

How quickly does a stranger become a familiar friend and a welcome
sight? I cannot count the things I’ve learned from two hours and
dozens of stories. I know this: he is one of those people well worth
knowing more.