Almost exactly four years ago, Taylor and I became friends. I say “almost” because it’s hard to say exactly when we actually became friends or what led to it. We were coworkers, for certain, at Calvin’s Rhetoric Center, for which we were at a symposium where she stood barefoot on the frost-laden deck as we discussed Valentine, the shaky little Pinscher-type accompanying us on the symposium under Adam and Rachel’s dogsitting. Adam and Rachel are in Hawai’i now. I don’t know where Valentine is, though fortunately for her, she is no longer stretched between me and Taylor, pulled by the legs from either side in a tug-of-war for her affection, and really, I think, for each other’s.
We also worked together on Dialogue Creative Journal. The first time I saw her, I was sitting on Cotter’s lap—he had been my best friend for probably six years at that point—at a meeting I crashed after coming home early from France. Jack was the editor-in-chief. I had known him for probably eight years at that point, sharing English classes and cross country and I keep forgetting that he and I were Euchre partners two or three years in a row at cross camp, though he and I hadn’t really been close. Hailey I had had a few classes and mutual friends with. Kendra and Jordan I sort of knew from Dialogue before France, and he and Matt had been on my floor freshman year, and Matt was one of three housemates I moved in with on my return. It was a bunch of people from mostly different places bumping together that led to our friendship and relationship and other friendships and relationships.
But Taylor and I and that group of friends and I were not unique like this. What relationship does not begin, in some way, with a chance encounter, and which friends do not knock into one another in college and then spin in different directions to mostly different places? It’s been difficult sometimes, since graduation, watching this happen, even though I knew it was probably going to. Matt is in Texas, and Jack is going to Utah, and Hailey flies to New York to see movies sometimes and I don’t know where she’ll go next, and I was a little worried that Cotter would be going to Florida but he’s not, and Jordan and Kendra bought a house in Grand Rapids because sometimes you slam so hard into something that you just spin in place for a while, which is awesome for them but a little sad because Taylor and I may soon be ricocheting away, and it’s a little sad that we don’t know where to, and it’s a little sad that this same mechanism of people bumping into one another is, in part, what led to a global pandemic that means we might be stuck where we are, albeit with friends but not really with them.
There are many, many studies and articles on the fact that humans are terrible at assessing probability. This fact is kind of funny to me because it turns out—I looked this up a month or so ago because I was curious—almost nothing in this world is truly random, certainly nothing at the macroscopic level. Not coin flips, not dice rolls, not lightning strikes, not roulette wheels, not games of blackjack, not even computer games of blackjack, and absolutely not games of pool. All of these things are determined by some combination of starting position, timing, force applied, air vectors, humidity, and the metaphorical flap of butterfly wings. When we were in middle school or high school, not together—she’s from Washington and now in New York—my cousin Katie, who is one of the smartest people in the world, warned me not to get too excited about chaos theory (which I was very excited about) because quantum mechanics tells us that some things are truly random. That means it is only at the subatomic level that things are completely unpredictable, and statisticians and quantum physicists and quantum statisticians disagree as to whether subatomic things are unpredictable on principle or we simply don’t have the tools to do it. So I guess the jury’s out on who’s right between the person getting her PhD in computer science and the person who reads Wikipedia articles when he can’t sleep.
We used to play pool at Sand’s off 28th St—the Dialogue staff, or at least different sections of it at different times. We were there with Matt and Jack one of the first times Taylor and I ever hung out outside of work. I remember the dull thwack as Jack broke and the cue ball burst into the rest and a new pattern blossomed out.
Jeffrey (‘17) ultimately settled on studying film and media studies and French, though food is his greatest passion. He lives in Grand Rapids and is trying to teach himself computer science so he can, among other things, cyberbully Elon Musk.