I am walking to class again. It is the middle of November and by now, I know the route well. It is a carefully planned path, borne of the experience of the last two months. Perhaps it is too well planned, because I am craving Starbucks and have set no time aside to stand in line for an overpriced hot chocolate. Instead, I had left the library with exactly ten minutes to spare for my journey across campus. By the time I approach the Diag, my time in the library has already become a blurry memory. Had I accomplished anything? I decide the answer has to be ‘Yes’, if only for my sanity. Of course, I am not the only person walking through the Diag on this wintery day. But I ignore the other people around me. It is the time that matters. I should have five minutes left. Still, I sidestep a pair of blonde girls. Their voices wash over me as I hurry past. They are walking too slowly for my impatient mind. Maybe they are going to the coffee shop to continue their conversation. Maybe they could buy that imaginary hot chocolate. Soon, I can’t even hear their words anymore and their existence seems to fade just as easily. Entire people gone, evaporating into the chilly air behind me. Our worlds intersected for the briefest moment and then separated just as quickly. Perhaps we all exist on the periphery of someone else’s world. Anonymous faces, barely even recognized, quickly forgotten. There are so many people at the University of Michigan and simply not enough time. For some people, we take the time, slow our steps, and talk. But for most, we only make tiny impacts on each other, slightly altering the paths of the people around us. We walk towards each other. We walk behind each other. We pass by.
I wonder if I have passed by these other people before. After all, I have taken this path so many times. They probably have a routine too. This is my path and theirs. Some of them might even be going to the same class, to the same crowded lecture hall. I am approaching my destination now. Someone opens the door for me and the warm air is weighing down on me, squeezing the cold from my bones. I say, ‘Thank you’, without meeting his eyes. I am not sure it is even a ‘him’. All I can see is the classroom and the ninety minutes of eternity awaiting me there. Then, my mind stretches beyond even that, to the evening ahead. I decide that I will make myself some hot chocolate then. And I have already forgotten the walk. Perhaps I will remember again, next week when I take the same path.
Our lives planned ahead. Our steps pre-destined. I only exist in the possible future. You only exist in my past. The present is forgotten as we walk towards something else. We pass by others as time passes us by.