I was buying fish the other day and the fishmonger told me I was beautiful. After handing over my parcel, he said goodbye, adding this afterward.
I was pleased in an odd sort of way. Although I also wondered if that was his usual parting. Maybe I should have said, “You’re beautiful, too. Have a nice day.” But I also believe in sincerity and somehow telling an older man with fish scales all over him that he was beautiful seemed to be too strange a gesture.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not because of who said it or because it was a flattering comment, but because of the strange incidents of memory. I kept thinking of the fishmonger, just as in Le Temps Perdu Marcel can’t stop thinking about the cowherd he sees from the train. He begins to imagine some sort of life together in pastoral dairy heaven. He spends a good load of pages trying to document and recreate the incident of a stranger who means nothing and yet is inescapable after those three minutes in commonality.
I am not imagining a life of a pastoral fishery for myself. Not yet, at least. I half hope that I only remember because I am vain enough to be pleased and Proustian enough to over-analyze the meaning. But after reading enough Craigslist Missed Connections, I wonder what drives someone to this past time of trying to reconnect with someone you never actually had a connection with. Maybe its an overwhelming loneliness or futility. Maybe its the modern version of the romance, an internet escapism. Or maybe everyone is just vain enough to hope someone noticed them.