Why Some Of The Best People You'll Ever Meet Are The Fleeting Ones

by Sophia Wu

Kebabs were on my mind during the last night of my vacation in Iceland.

It was a Sunday night, one in the morning, the sky still bright and Reykjavik had no intention of settling down.

People continued bustling the streets and I was one of them, leaving a bar in favor of my favorite lamb and cucumber wrap from the local mom-and-pop place, which a couple of young Syrians owned.

I had just finished ordering when I fell into a conversation with a group of Icelandic guys in their early 20s, clad in tattoos and piercings with Samurai-style buns knotted at the top of their heads, which mirrored my own.

Since I was by myself, I was pretty sure it was me in a state of beer-induced intoxication that began the conversation rather than them, so I couldn’t exactly remember how I ended up with those guys.

But they were very chill and kind, reminding me of people I'd hang out with back home, and we shared similar tastes in art and music.

Soon enough, they invited me back to one of their houses to go smoke a joint.

I couldn’t imagine a better final night than sitting in one of the guys’ bedrooms listening to his favorite underground rap songs, talking about everything and nothing.

Just a bunch of us sitting the floor, bed and chairs, hanging out as if they’d known me for years.

I had just met them, but there was something so warm, familiar and inclusive about them that made me feel so at home.

I spent my week in Iceland encountering many new people, ranging from a group of Canadian architecture students to recent Wharton graduates, to London DJs to an Icelandic pop star.

I had been in multiple bars, street corners and apartment balconies at that point, which had all provided me a sense of foreign adventure, but also made me feel lost in an ocean of circling groups of people — I was simply riding the waves with no direction.

It was in the spirit of,

“You’re in Iceland! Do whatever you want!”

But, I couldn’t help but feel that my actions were rooted in deliberate blindness that led me to this strange feeling that wasn’t quite loneliness or comfort, but rather a hybrid mix of the two.

I’m someone who falls in love with people easily, but not in the romantic way.

It’s more of taking a quick liking to different people’s characters, their energies and the auras of their personalities — the way they carry themselves.

It’s the ones I have deep conversations with at a café, the girls I’ve shared bathroom stalls with, the people who offer their jacket to me despite the cold and everyone else who has shared some part of their story with me.

They are the fleeting people. They’re in your life for a minute, a day, a week and then just like that, they’re gone again.

You share intimate moments with them, but you don’t really know them and they don’t really know you, so there's a sense of relief and freedom in that.

One of the best, yet saddest parts about fleeting people is they aren’t meant to stay in your life.

For a simple fleeting period by pure chance, our paths had crossed and I believe there’s something to be gained from that.

In many ways, you learn so much about human character in a way that is completely different from the intimacy you share with the people you’ve known for years, the ones whose mannerisms and ways of thinking you've memorized.

The fleeting people in your life somehow manage to impact you in ways you don’t expect or imagine. You don’t forget them.

The group of Icelandic guys brought me to their old primary school down the street from the house where we were just were so we could share the two joints they rolled for us.

They told me how they all grew up together and are now working together as waiters in the same restaurant.

They’d nudge and joke around with me, and ask me questions about my life in America.

We played a bit of soccer until 5 in the morning, at which point, we finally parted ways and said our goodbyes.

I was the first to leave, and as I looked back, I saw three of the six guys in their fur-lined, thickly-insulated black jackets waving and then eventually walking off together.

I’d most likely never see them again, and standing alone in the now-quiet and deserted streets of Reykjavik, I felt a pang of sadness.

In an ideal world with no geographical complications, I’d hang out with them again.

I’d really get to know them on a more serious friendship level and learn about their past relationships, what kind of families they grew up in, the little things that get on their nerves and their favorite foods.

Or maybe, I wouldn’t because maybe, this hangout existed for the simplest of intentions.

It was just a brief, fleeting exchange that was only meant to be brief and fleeting; perhaps it wouldn’t be as special to me if it were not.

For some individuals, the value of temporary versus permanent figures in their lives have vastly differing scales of importance.

Fleeting people do not always carry significant meaning to them, probably because they won't be around forever.

But for me, there will always be room in my heart for the fleeting people. To a certain degree, they are more important to our growth than we realize.

They’re the kind of people who made time for us, although there’s no history of shared experiences or even a future for more.

In spite of the random occurrence of meeting, they’re people we actually connect with in such a temporary time frame.

As I walked down the street, I thought about how in a few hours, I would board a plane, prepare to be reunited with my long-term best friends, my old bedroom in my parents’ house and the familiarity of the streets and restaurants in my home city.

I’d be so far removed from that basement bedroom in Reykjavik, with the guys I had come to appreciate in such a short time, and all of the other experiences I had with the rest of people I met in Iceland.

For me, there will always be room in my heart for the fleeting people.