Small World, Part I: Natalie

I used to live in Dallas from 1981 to 1989 before moving to a new town in another county. I was glad to get out of that place, where I suffered years of taunts and social abuse — if I never again had anything to do with the people I knew in Dallas, I would be a happy man.

Years later, I went off to college, earned a degree, then saved up money to visit England and France in 1998 with Jim. Regular visitors to this blog will know that 1998 went down as the hardest year of my life — you’ll get a bit more insight into why when you continue.

Before our trip, we needed to get a good pair of hiking boots and a trip to R.E.I. soon came about. We were assisted in the shoe department by a very cute, tall, blonde and total stranger. She raced about, getting us different pairs of boots, socks, and accessories. While I was sitting and she was kneeling in front of me lacing up yet another pair of boots, she pauses, looks up at me and asks:

“You’re Matthew McGarity, aren’t you?” I’m surprised. Jim’s wide-eyed and expecting a dramatic explanation for why a stranger would know my name.

My blank expression leads her to ask, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

I honestly answer no and ask her to give me a hint. She says her name is Natalie. “Natalie…Natallie…Natalie…” I repeat until that chain is broken by, “Holy crap! Natalie!” And then it hit me: she was the girl that lived across the cul-de-sac from me as a child, with whom I played with everyday after school. Natalie was the first girl I ever had a crush on, one of the only people I thought highly of while growing up, and there she was right in front of me!

As we talked, Natalie and I found out we had some things in common, including going to UNT. She was soon to graduate and head out west to get a master degree in ocean biology or somesuch. At the end of the day, she wished me luck on my European adventure, and I responded rather awkwardly, “Yeah, good luck with whatever you do.” As poetic as this encounter might have sounded, at the time I did not appreciate much of anything associated with Dallas, including Natalie living there. Growing up there was very hard, and I had found wonderful things outside of Dallas during my high-school and college years. Why would I want to do anywhere near all of that was my reasoning. Silly I realize now, but at least she cared to remember my name. That still blows me away to this day.

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