This weekend, some friends and I went to a small, independent gallery to see an art installation and hear some area writers/poets/all-around creative people read works of fiction that in some way related to time-travel. (though not always in the traditional sci-fi sense, which I rather appreciated.) During the course of the night, one of the author’s made a point about discussing her favourite word, a word I don’t recall, but was quite interesting and obscure.

Every writer has their own favourite words, and since I started writing poetry before I really knew what poetry was, most of mine are poetically descriptive words; “diaphanous”, “illuminata”, “aphrodisia”, “vertiginous” (the last has been struck from my favourites list, considering the events of the recent year.). As a reviewer once put it, “Alayna is fond of the dark and beautiful imagery one might only expect to find on an LSD trip, before the pink elephants kick in.”

My favourite word, however, is a relatively simple and straightforward one: serendipitous. The actual definition is something that is fortuitous, or come upon by accident, but I tend to use it in that “magical sign from the universe” way. I generally believe there’s more to our Universe than sheer randommness, and it seems that things and people are often put in your life for a specific reason, at the right time. It may not *feel* like the right time to you, and the reasons may vary, but I generally think these serendipitous occurrences are part of life’s learning curve. This is also why I’m a huge believer in karma, and not ignoring what pops up in my life. Every time I decide to do so, or decide that the way I want my life to work is how it’s going to work and that’s that, I find that life seems to fight back. It’s rather like trying to move a brick wall. On top of it, life doesn’t always fight fair. It’s easier to pay attention.

A few weeks ago, I was explaining this aspect of “Alayna’s View On Life and The World” to a friend of mine, who asked me what the most serendipitous occurrence in my life was. As so often happens, I started telling this story, and got sidetracked on a tangent, and never finished it. However, it’s a good story, and definitely a reflection of what I consider serendipity, so I’ll share it with all of you.

When I was a teenager, I went to a place I jokingly dubbed “Genius Camp”. You didn’t have to be a genius to attend, but you did have to score the kind of SAT scores that would get you into any state school when you were 12. The real name of the program was Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth (CTY), and it was a three-week residential program where you’d take a college course for credit (these actually helped me get through a 5-year courseload in 4 years, when it came time to attend college for real), and also have the opportunity to interact with child prodigies and amazingly gifted people all across the country. If you had a problem with arrogance or self-importance, this was also the place to fix that. :P *laughs* I attended the program for 5 years, and it was one of the best memories of my teenage years, consistently. I loved being in a place where nobody treated you like a child, found your talents unique, or expected more of you than you were able to give.

There were some girls who attended the program who were like me: not exactly genius material, but well-rounded, popular, gifted at a number of different things, but had also discovered the fun parts about being a teenager, like boys, makeup, clothes, and drinking. We were the girls who, back home, were smarter than most of the people we knew, but nobody knew about it, because we were cheerleaders, drama geeks, pageant contestants, and student council presidents. We kind of quickly found one another, and made friends. Sometimes, as girls do, we made “frenemies”.

One of my best friends was a very pretty blonde cheerleader type (who has since gone on to become a lawyer active in politics.), and we were fairly inseparable for most of those summers. It didn’t really occur to me to mind that being friends with her meant I’d always be standing in the shadow of someone who was prettier, more charismatic, more self-assured..or if it did, it wasn’t anything I outwardly acknowledged. That is, until I was 14, and I met Avery.

Avery is one of the few people I know who would be angry at this journal entry if I *didn’t* use his real name. *laughs* He always rather liked being the centre of attention, and at 16, was already the brooding emo journalist type with a snarky sense of humour and completely crazy hair. I was secretly in love with him, but at 14, that’s a much bigger deal than it really is (back then, I wasn’t as aggressive in relationships as I tend to be now. I thought if he found out I liked him, I’d have to crawl under a rock and die.).

The problem, of course, was that my best friend was also very fond of him…and she was both confident and socially assertive about it. Looking back, I see that the two year age difference made a big difference, and he wasn’t romantically aware of either of us. He was simply flattered that two pretty, smart young girls wanted his attention.

Nevertheless, we were all friends, until the last summer, when Avery turned 16. 16 is the cutoff for the program; you’re meant to be preparing for or in college by 17, so it made sense we’d never see him again. There was always a huge shindig with lots of hugs and tears for the people who wouldn’t be back the next year. Unfortunately, Avery had to leave a day early for a commitment back home, and would miss the tearful goodbyes.

We almost missed saying goodbye to him, but I remember my friend and I running out of class, through rain and mud, to catch up with him before his ride arrived. It was a very emotional goodbye. We both thought the world revolved around this beautiful person we’d never see again, and Avery was attached to us in the way a big brother would look out for his younger siblings, especially ones he knew would be a handful. He was extraordinarily protective, a characteristic that’s still a huge part of his personality.

I remember my friend and I not going back to class for 45 minutes, because we were sobbing and being dramatic. This is what kept us from actually being “geniuses”, this lack of focus on anything productive. We’d probably be nuclear physicists if we hadn’t had social skills. *lol*

A sweet childhood unrequited love story, right?

The serendipitous part wouldn’t come until years later, when I was in New York, and sitting at a cafe in the East Village, close to where I lived at the time. I was reading a book and drinking hot chocolate, it was fall, and this tall, skinny, artsy-looking guy kept looking at me. Me being me, I thought he was just flirting, and he was also the prime example of “my type” at that point in my life, so I wasn’t shy about flirting back.

He handed me a piece of paper, what I expected to be his phone number. Instead, it had one word on it. “Passionfruit?”

Passionfruit was the name of a secret, invitation-only club that met Saturday mornings back at the good old days of Genius Camp. Nobody would know something that random unless they’d been there, which is when I realised why I was so attracted to the stranger flirting with me.

As it turned out, Avery was a grad student studying journalism at Columbia. Needless to say, we kept in touch, and it didn’t take long to realise I was still pretty besotted with him, and because I was no longer self-conscious and 14, his protectiveness toward me very quickly became a romantic attachment.

I won’t tell the rest of the story, because it’s not part of the serendipity of it all, and it doesn’t have the happy ending I’d have chosen for the story. I will say he’s the second man in my life to have given me an engagement ring, and helped me channel a lot of my excess emotion and anger and fear into healthier, more creative channels. I never loved myself the way he loved me, and he tried very hard to get me to that point. When he finally brings down the government of some struggling country with his gritty, realistic expose, there won’t be a prouder person on the planet than me…and maybe Avery’s mom. :)

I’d be lying if I didn’t sometimes wonder if serendipity might randomly bring us back together again. But I don’t think so. I think that part of the story is done…but it’s the kind of memory that’s still going to bring tears to my eyes when I’m 90, and don’t remember anyone’s name.

But that is why my favourite word is “serendipitous”, and why I believe everything does somehow happen for a reason..even if you have no clue what that might be.

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