She passed by, nodding her head my way, acknowledging my presence. I nodded back knowingly. We didn't quite know each other though. She had her own world, I had mine, and we were busy enough in it that we didn't quite find the time to loiter and get to know each other. Yet, through mutual friend circles and things that you hear from them, we knew of each other's existence. We'd heard stories, most of them good. We passed by knowingly, giving each other a glance for just long enough for it to not be weird. It was normal, generally unnoticed on a busy day. There wasn't a motive to any of it, it just came naturally. You look at a person passing by, you nod and maybe give them a wave, and get on with your life.
Things like these don't generally affect your life a lot, and they didn't, until I stopped seeing her around one day. It wasn't weird, there could be a hundred reasons why someone would not show up for a few days, or just end up not crossing paths with you for a few days. Months passed though. I hadn't seen her in a while, despite having seen the network of people she knew in all that time. Everyone but her, and for some reason, that bugged me a little. Things don't generally change that way. I wasn't so interested as to go around asking about her, after all, I didn't exactly know her. I'd never had a conversation beyond a greeting with her. There was no reason why I'd go out of my way to ask about her whereabouts. And perhaps, she was really there, but just stopped hanging around the places she used to. It's funny how a tiny change in your routine starts to become so noticeable when you start paying it a little attention.
Your mind places people in somewhat of a grid, with you at the relative centre. The people who you know the most, and talk to on a daily basis, are closest to you on that chart, while acquaintances are farther away. Your care for them, their existence, and whereabouts decreases, the further away they are from you. It's a theory that everyone is accustomed to, and takes it as an undeniable and somewhat 'given' truth.
Somehow, there was something about her though. There were no feelings of any kind associated with her, neither of attachment nor animosity, and yet, her absence felt weird. It didn't create any difference to the functioning of my life whatsoever, but I still found myself looking for her every now and then, just so I could glance at her knowingly again and walk past, only having achieved a sense of knowing that she's still around. I guess one could call me somewhat creepy, but you give an overthinking man a tiny change in his life and this is what he'll throw back at you.
Today, after a few months of not having seen her around, and yet not having heard anything about her that points to any major change in her life, I saw her name, scrolling through Instagram, despite not being in my direct social circle. A picture from college, with a couple of friends, gleaming at the camera, trying to do the fake candid thing but ironically, the way it's deemed cool these days. There's something about this algorithm that picks up on the subtlest of your hints and make them come to you as though it were magic. To be honest, it didn't matter, seeing her on there. But I was happy. The world's gears were turning normally, keeping the mundane little things happening as they do. She was still around somewhere, and we'd probably cross paths again. Look at each other, maybe wave and go on with our lives. And that's fine.