When you’re waiting at the bus stop with your children and you see a guy with a familiar face, and you realize you went to high school with him almost three decades ago and half a country away, and you instinctively say his name despite having barely known him in high school—he looks at you without recognition so you say, “John Proctor. We went to high school together,” and he fakes it, smiling wide and saying “Um” and “Ahhh, yes,” and you know he has no idea who you are, but that’s alright, you tell yourself, you weren’t that memorable in high school. You know from common friends that he went to Harvard and now also lives in Brooklyn, that he’s married to a man and they have what mutual friends have described as a precocious child, and this doesn’t surprise you since he was a precocious child and now has a prominent career in city planning and public policy, and as your bus arrives and your children start pulling your arms toward it you remember the one thing that has stayed with you through three decades between youth and middle age: His dominant hand, twirling a pencil on his knuckle with his thumb over and over in humanities class while your teacher talked about Bruce Springsteen and the Romantic poets, and how you spent the remaining years of high school imitating and perfecting this twirl with your own hand in the hopes of approximating this young man’s intelligence and appropriating the respect everyone gave him as a very intelligent young man. And when you get on the bus and think on him more as your daughters don’t ask who he was, you hope he still twirls his pencil on his knuckle, that you share this intellectual property with him, in this city and this neighborhood within which you’ve both nested.

What are the Sneaky Feels?

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AuthorJohn Proctor