For the past month, I’ve made a routine of getting up early before work to post up at The Durham Hotel and read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Of the available coffee shops/hotels/restaurants, it checked a few boxes: quiet (most days), close to work, and decent coffee. It’s also a place in my rotation I haven’t exhausted yet.
Today was a special day. I was running late and didn’t have time to crack open my book so I decided to switch things up and work on a couple pieces I’ve been sitting on. Things like sad reflections on gun violence and the inevitability of climate disasters. The usual. But this morning, my attention was drawn to a strange occurrence I had yet to experience during my morning ritual; I knew people. Not a person, people. ALL of them. I ordered my coffee and sat down. As I looked up, two more people I knew walked in. Five minutes later, two more. It was like Noah’s Ark of Justin’s friends marching into the hotel.
Now, whenever I’m out in public, I reminisce about my days at RUNAWAY and how I couldn’t help but see people I knew anywhere I went. Durham is a different city now. Hundreds of people are moving to the Triangle daily, and RUNAWAY was my way to interact with them. Now that I don’t have that, people I know stick out to me more. Seeing them reminds me of a special time in my life. I continue to search for ways to recreate those atmospheres of familiarity. Today was serendipitous. Perhaps I don’t have to force these encounters. The happenstance makes it all the more memorable.