Chance Encounter

I was running late for work for the third time this week when I got caught up at the intersection of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. The light turned green, so I knew I couldn’t cross, even though jaywalking wasn’t the most uncommon thing here to do. Lauren told me that the next time I was this late that my job was on the line, and this was my dream job; I couldn’t lose it after the best year of my life. 

The light turned after what seemed to be an eternity, and I bolted across the street. I had three more intersections to pass until the store was on the left, and as I could see the next one turning yellow, I soon felt myself sprinting. I found myself shoving people out of my way since the traffic here was so bad; you’d think people living here would learn to pick up their pace. 

Tired of dealing with people who were never taught how to correctly cross a street, I walked toward the curb. I saw no cars were passing, so I decided to run across. I was so busy looking behind me to see if I was about to get hit that I didn’t even notice what was right in front of me, and it wasn’t until I felt my head clunk someone else’s that I turned to face forward. I felt fine, with the exception of a minor headache, but the unfortunate stranger I had bumped into didn’t seem to feel the same way, and she had fallen to the ground. 

“Oh my god, I am SO sorry! I wasn’t looking where I was going. Are you okay?” I asked. 

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m absolutely fine. Just got a little swept off my feet, is all. It doesn’t take much these days to do that, I guess,” she responded. 

If I had to guess, she seemed to be in her late-40s, early 50s. But she looked great for her age. She actually looked kind of like me, with the same olive skin and honey-brown eyes. Her hair was curly just like mine, too, even though hers was brown and mine was blonde. I helped her off the ground and offered to buy her a hot dog from across the street. I figured the least I could do was buy her one from the place I visited on a daily basis. “I’d love one, sweetheart,” she said.

She said that a lot, sweetheart

We walked a block or two down to the stand. I texted Lauren and told her I wasn’t feeling well; a tactic I had never thought about using before. I saw her move her hand toward her jacket pocket and pull out her wallet, and I motioned for her to put it away. “Please, let me use this to clear my conscience, and repay you for bumping into you. I was being so stupid. It’s only fitting that a horrible thing happened because I broke the law.”

“For jaywalking?” she questioned. “These days, people take that almost as seriously as they take people who live in Jersey. You shouldn’t feel bad for something everyone does.”

“It doesn’t make it any less illegal. Just because 500 people break the law doesn’t change the fact that it’s illegal.” 

“You’re a pretty sweet girl, you know that?” she asked. “Your parents must be really proud of you.”

“I’d like to believe they are,” I responded. “I was adopted when I was seven years old, and never met my actual birth parents.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I had a child in the adoption system, and to this day I regret giving her up.”

“Why did you? If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”

“I wasn’t ready. I was twenty, still in college, with plans to go to law school, and I couldn’t bring a kid into that atmosphere. Her father wanted nothing to do with her, so I didn’t have any other choice.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. 

We ate the rest of our brunch engaging in small talk, varying from favorite movies to future careers. “Did you ever become a lawyer?” I asked. 

“I did. Environmental. I work at Pastel & Nocturne on 35th.”

“Do you like it?”

“It’s my dream job. I love knowing that there are people like me still fighting to change the way we use our natural resources. But I still feel like something’s missing in my life.”

“I can understand that. I have my dream job too, but I always feel a void in my gut, and it’s only been expanding every day, week, month that goes by.”

“Well, there’s another thing we have in common.”

“I guess so.”

Talking to her was so natural. We had this instant connection, I felt, and I didn’t want our conversation to end. But she had to get back to work since she was technically on her lunch break when we “met.” She got up out of her chair and was putting on her jacket when I heard something come in contact with the city’s cement. She hadn’t seemed to notice, and I couldn’t help but discover that it had popped open when I bent down to pick it up. I hesitated before picking it up because I had seen something that looked a little familiar. I took it out of the wallet and looked at it closer. “Hey, what is this?”

“What’s what?” She asked, and looked at what I was holding. A baby picture. A baby picture with my face on it. It was my favorite one, with my lavender-colored dress with baby-blue flowers all over them. I looked so happy in that picture.

“Why do you have this?” I asked, changing my question. 

“What do you mean?” 

“You said that you didn’t have any kids.”

“I don’t.”

“Then who’s this?”

“That’s my baby girl; the one I told you about. The woman that adopted her sent it to me on her first birthday. It’s the only piece of her I have,” she explained. 

It can’t be. It’s just not possible. In a population of tens of thousands, did I really just bump into the very person who gave me up for adoption 25 years ago? I never believed in fate, but this was proving to be a pretty good argument. 

I hadn’t spoken for a while, and I could tell that she noticed and was getting a bit suspicious. 

I finally found the strength to speak. “This is my picture. I still have that dress in one of the bins in our attic. I was three when my adopted mom took it. I didn’t even know she knew who you were. I didn’t even know I was adopted until I graduated high school, and I didn’t get a name. It’s just…destiny that I ran into you, I guess.”

She hesitated before speaking and said, “There’s no way. It can’t be. Casey?” 

She pulled me in a warm embrace, and we stayed for a couple of minutes as tears came to my eyes. We sat back down at the table, and the conversation instantaneously became easier. I wanted to tell her everything, and it only hurt that much more when she had to leave after an hour so that she could get to work. We exchanged numbers and promised to meet up at the intersection of 42nd and 5th the following evening to finish our conversation.