She greeted me so exuberantly that I answered in kind, like we were friends meeting on the street though I didn’t know her name.
“Oh hi!” she said, peddling away on her stationary bike as I punched numbers into the elliptical. Then, “Don’t I know you? Did you graduate from Marion Center?”
Ah. Mistaken identity. I stopped desperately trying to place her.
It’s a problem I have a lot, working as a reporter. I meet a lot of different people at a lot of different places, write their stories or quote their comments at meetings, and when I see them again at the grocery story or the county fair or the gym, I recognize them.
But I can’t place who they are or where I know them from. Out of context, they’re familiar strangers, and it’s unsettling.
I’m relieved that she doesn’t actually know me.
She goes to the gym at the same time I do. At least, those times I make it out over lunch, she’s always there, chatting with gym employees and greeting the older man who always uses the step machine or reading a book on the bike, the treadmill.
The day she thought I was a former Marion Center student of hers, we exchanged names, and she called over another person to agree that yes, I do look like what’s-her-name, you know who I’m thinking of? Neither can remember her name, both agree that I look like her.
She went back to her book; I asked for the channel to be changed to news. The sports shows that usually play on the flat-screen above the weight machines are fine but I don’t like talk shows of any variety; news at least changes every minute or so, and I can guess most of what I can’t quite hear.
That was about a week ago and she greets me now, those days that I make it in over my lunch hour. I wonder if she’s remembered the name of the girl she thought I was?