I am reading a journal I kept when I was 21. That was 55 years ago, give or take a few months. The journal begins with my abandonment by S, who ran off with W. I was in love with both of them. We caused each other a great deal of suffering, and perhaps some real harm.
What is missing from my journal entries is a coherent narrative. Why any of us did what we did remains largely a mystery. I understood very little about myself at that time. What I did know, I barely acknowledged to myself, much less to others. And what was really going on with the others, to this day, I really don't know. My impression is that, more than anything else, we were, as the saying goes, ships passing in the night.
I was curious about the ships passing metaphor, so I looked it up. I am told by a little entry in Know Your Phrase that the image was used by Longfellow in 1863 in Tales of a Wayside Inn, but the entry does not indicate whether the image was original with him:
"Ships that pass in the night, and speak to each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak to one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence."
In this image one supposes that the ships are relatively speaking unchanged by the event. Perhaps it leaves one or two of the more poetically inclined sailors thinking about . . . about what? Well, you know. About how ships pass in the night. But neither the ship nor its passengers are profoundly altered.
What the image about the ships in the night leaves out is how we are often harmed by our encounters with people we do not understand well. And how we may have harmed them.