Sanctuary 2.0: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

As of today, I have officially had a downtown Boulder address for six months. Once upon a time, I lived in a city of 12 million. Now I live in a town of 100,000. Sure, that’s ten times the size of the town I grew up in, but it is still very, very small. Unless you are a total hermit with no social or professional network at all, if you live here, expect to run into people you know. And behave yourself accordingly.

My era of “Oh hey, fancy seeing you here!” started in the worst possible way on March 25 when The Writer took me to a dinner party at his best friend’s house. As we were picking up dessert at a grocery store, a dark angel crossed our path: the ex-boyfriend of a close friend of mine. A man who is friends with my ex and whom no one likes. No one has ever liked him, even before he moved out of my friend’s house in the middle of the day without having the decency to tell her the years-long relationship was over. We jutted our chins out at each other by way of reluctant acknowledgement and continued on. His appearance was an omen of worse things to come. When we arrived at the hosts’ home, my date introduced me to his best friend first and then to his best friend’s girlfriend. And that’s when I went nearly brain dead, taking great effort to force my smile muscles to move into shape and sticking my arm out zombie-stiff to shake her hand. I was incapable of being genuine because my mind was frozen in a state of horror. The girlfriend was an intimacy coach who had held a group session that my ex and I had gone to together. A most uncomfortable four hours ensued.

No other chance encounter was anywhere near that awful, thankfully. But still, the sheer volume of run-ins and coincidences I’ve had in Boulder has been unexpected.

March 27. I was crossing an intersection with Trotsky when someone waiting to turn right started honking and waving at us. It was one of my former neighbors from Alaska Hill.

April 6. A guy who randomly responded to my Craigslist Missed Connections ad turned out to be the neighbor of a friend who lives walking distance from my house.

April 12. Seven of my girlfriends and I got together for the Boulder Running Company’s Wednesday night run to kick off our Bolder Boulder training. One of the (married) software engineers I work with was there was well, and several of my friends found him quite attractive.

April #? I was walking Trotsky down my street when a gal on a bicycle called to a guy on a bicycle coming the other way down the street. I recognized the voice, looked over, and recognized the gal. She was the girlfriend of an acquaintance of my ex.  So I called her name and we all giggled at the chance encounter chain we created.

May 3. Another night at run club with six of us ladies who decided to all have Vietnamese food afterward. We walked into Chez Thuy and there, waiting at the hostess stand to be seated, was another former neighbor from Alaska Hill and his wife.

May 9. I went to a puzzle night at a restaurant nearby and the host turned out to be the guy who used to run trivia night with a close friend of mine.

May 27. Another day at the Boulder Running Company (only shopping this time, not running) and another random meeting with an engineer from my company. But one wasn’t enough this day. I also ran into one of the customer support engineers, who sits kitty-corner to me, later that night at the Boulder Creek Fest. He’s a real odd duck. And, since (good) things come in threes, I also ran into a man from the dating apps, a man whose profile I had looked at several times and who had looked at mine, but neither of us had gone further than that. He was more attractive in person, but I still declined to initiate a conversation.

May 29. What is it about running and software engineers? 54,000 people ran the Bolder Boulder this year and somehow, just as I crossed the finish line, yep, you guessed it, standing right there was one of the developers whose team I support. Later that day, a few friends of mine were walking to my house for a party but were still several blocks away. They started talking to some random guy who invited them to his brother’s place for a party. Turns out, his brother is my neighbor. In fact, his brother is the guy I had to talk to when I first moved in because he was parking in such a way that he was almost blocking me into my driveway. So, our parties mixed and mingled that afternoon!

May 30. I was enjoying my first encounter with the brilliant, charming, thoughtful, and sexy Ironman at the Med (more on him some other time) when I heard a familiar voice call my name. One of my Boulder friends had been sitting a few tables away and was on her way out when she spotted me.

June 9.  I was leaving what was so far my worst date of 2017, desperate to shake the guy and get home to a book and a glass of wine, when who do I run into? The CEO of my company and his wife! Had it just been the CEO, it would have been fine because he has no idea who I am. But his wife is the head of HR and I participate in lots of company activities with her, so she knows exactly who I am and of course she wanted to say hi. I said hi back but kept walking briskly because the last thing I wanted was to be in a situation where I might have to introduce this guy I never wanted to see again. I hope she didn’t think I was rude!

June 13. I showed up for a Meetup event and started talking to a girl. Somehow the topic turned to weddings and I mentioned that I’m going to one in Telluride the last weekend of September. Well, guess what? So is she! The same wedding. She turned out to be a friend of my friend.

June 23. A junky SUV was stopped in front of me, waiting to turn right onto Pearl St. There didn’t appear to be cars stopping him from pulling out, but he just sat there. Then, he rolled down the window and started talking to a homeless guy who was carrying a guitar. When he stuck his head out the window, I saw it was my creepy coworker, the same one I saw at Creek Fest on May 27. In the time between the last encounter and this, I had come to find out he lives only a few blocks from me. Ugh! Too close.

July 6. At one of my favorite restaurants, I ran into a married couple from my job, people I like well enough. But, in addition, sitting across the way from me was this despicable girl who, shortly after I moved in with my ex, started flirting with him openly and being incredibly disrespectful to me behind my back. It’s a saga that I won’t go into other than to say that she is a trashy human being. I can’t tell if she saw me because she was outside and I think the reflection from the plate glass window prevented her from seeing the inside of the restaurant. But from where I was sitting, we were looking directly at each other from about 15 feet away and there was no other table to move to. It was awful.

July 20. I ran into the same former neighbor I saw on May 3, this time at Fate Brewing.

July 21. This is not a Boulder-specific story, but I had to include it because it is quite surprising. My ex put the Alaska Road house up for sale on this day. My boss, who had never seen the house or met my ex, sent me a link to the listing asking me if that was my former house. I said yes and asked how he came across the listing. He said through someone he knows well. Naturally, I had to ask the name of this person. Well, it turns out this person is closely linked to both my boss and my ex, and I have met this person on several occasions. It took 13 months of working together before we figured it out, even though my boss and I have had discussions in the past that could easily have led us to this discovery earlier. I apologize for all the non-specific terminology here but I’m trying to keep this somewhat private while simultaneously needing to share it because it was such a bizarre coincidence. Even more bizarre if you knew the exact nature of these connections both to my boss and my ex. Sorry!

July 22. A guy (who I’ve had substantial conversations with) from one of my meetup groups was in a different meetup group today. This is not entirely that weird since they are both writing groups. But one is professional and one is creative, so I was a little surprised. Also, I’m pretty sure he lives in Denver, so to see him going to two different Boulder area meetups was a little surprising.

July 23. On day 4 of this “oh hey, it’s you” streak, it finally happened – I ran into someone I went on a date with – the Specialty Fitness Store Owner. It was fine, not awkward. We only had one date after all, a date we both left knowing there wouldn’t be another. We were on opposite escalators at the 29th Street Mall, the continual motion of which left no time other than to say “hey, how’s it going?” before we were physically too far apart to say anything more. Considering I’ve gone on dates with 10 different guys who live in Boulder proper , I’m surprised this was the only encounter I’ve had.

July 27. I saw a man wearing one of our product t-shirts (the kinds they give out to all employees after a major release) in Barnes & Noble. I didn’t recognize him, but still, seeing that t-shirt was a reminder of why I always watch what I say.

July 28. On my morning dog walk, I recognized one of my coworkers bicycling by on his way to work and he recognized me, so we waved.

August 1. Six months to the day after the last time I saw his angry face, bloated from alcoholism, and the soulless, sociopathic look in his eyes staring through his truck window at me while I sat freezing on the passenger seat where he had left me in the middle of ice storm with temperatures in the teens and no way to get up to the mountain house by myself, I ran into him in town, in the grocery store. I know he saw me before I saw him because when I turned away from the prepared food shelf, there he was, two feet behind me wearing that icy, I-hate-the-world expression he’s mastered to hide how deeply insecure he is knowing how few people can stand to be around him and knowing that even fewer people genuinely like him even if they do tolerate his presence. The only other thing I really have to say about this encounter is that he was noticeably fatter.

August 4. I ran into one of the engineers, not someone I work with, at the grocery store.

August 8. Another meetup connection – I left a meetup event and walked into a bar. Standing there in the lobby was a (really weird) guy who I had talked to months early at a previous session of the same meetup I had just left.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

And in the midst of all this live action, I also saw the following people on dating websites and apps: a guy I took several writing classes from,  two of my coworkers (and I mean immediate coworkers – not random people I see around the office), my former boss who also briefly dated a friend of mine, a friend of a friend my friend tried to hook me up with years ago, and another engineer at my company who I don’t really work with.

There’s one person I would like to run into that I haven’t yet, and that’s The Writer, of course. I’m sure he doesn’t think of me anymore, but he was important to me for the brief period we knew each other. I would like to reconnect with him. I know a few locations in town where I might be able to engineer a “random” meeting with him, but I don’t want to encroach on his space. And I would feel incredibly awkward picking up the phone and calling him. Maybe it’ll happen. Maybe I should just call him. Maybe that possibility is lost to eternity. Maybe I just need to stick around Boulder six more months.

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