Pat and Syd were born unlikely to meet.
Syd was born in sunny Melbourne and grew up loving the surf, sunscreen, and digital art.
Pat was from a village north of Berlin and grew up determined to get into the Technical University.
Syd was short, happy and never shut up. Pat was tall, serious, and judged people who had more than ten items at the express checkout. Syd liked running on the beach. Pat preferred a cozy armchair and coffee.
The one thing Pat and Syd shared, other than carpal tunnel, was a love for science fiction.
Syd dreamed of colorful alien worlds among the stars. Pat dreamed of inventing technology to make Earth into one of those worlds. Syd filled the backs of highschool notebooks with drawings of spiral-shaped plants and multi-limbed ETs. Pat drew flying cars and solar panels. Their school notebooks together might´ve been enough to pitch a new show to Joss Whedon.
Pat and Syd did not meet until long after eighth grade, however.
They might never have met, if not for the 4th International Symposium in Digital Design and Computer Architecture. Berlin, June 2017. Pat took a train over. Syd crossed the world.
The symposium lasted four days, during which Pat and Syd never came within fifty feet of each other. But the night of the closing reception, when they were this close to never having met at all, in swooped the coat check man and changed everything.
Pat’s coat check number was 16. Syd’s was 91. The coat check man misread, and he handed Syd Pat’s backpack. Syd didn’t notice.
Fortune made Pat come by the coat check at the same time. Their paths crossed, and there was Syd, sunburnt and goosebump-skinned and holding Pat’s possessions.
Pat stared and said, “That´s mine.”
“Finders keepers?” joked Syd.
Pat did not get the joke.
German humor, Syd would learn, was different from Australian humor.
Syd got the right backpack and followed Pat out. “Are you from here?”
Pat said, “Yes.” Nothing more. Small talk was not Pat’s forte.
“I’m gonna stay a few days, see the city. Any ideas?”
Syd really wanted a tourist guide. Pat said “No way,” and Syd said, “I’ll pay you!” and that tipped the scales. Pat wasn’t rich.
Neither was Syd, but Syd possessed an excess of optimism about exchange rates and a disregard for personal finance. They called the price at ninety-five Euros plus expenses, and the deal was done.
The next day Pat woke up at six-forty-five, ready to begin guide duty. Syd didn’t get up until eleven.
Pat and Syd explored Berlin together. Pat had never seen Brandenburger Tor, or the Pergamon museum. Pat had definitely never been to the Berghain club. But Syd insisted, and Pat had committed, so they went. They had to wait in line for an hour. Pat’s ears hurt for a day.
Pat didn’t know the good Berlin coffee shops, but Syd had a talent for picking them. Syd had a talent for making people act nice, too. It was hard to understand. Everyone just liked Syd.
After a while even Pat liked Syd, which was a surprise. Pat had not been prepared to like Syd.
Syd had not been prepared for Berlin weather. They had to stop several times to buy sweaters. Syd kept leaving them behind in bakeries and museums.
They went to a different club the second night. Pat bought earplugs beforehand, which made Syd laugh to tears. Pat put the earplugs away while they sat at the bar with their beers.
That was another thing Pat and Syd shared. Beer. On that, Pat was a confident guide. Pointing out all the best flavors on the menu. Forget about Stella and Corona.
It was around the fourth beer that Syd leaned over. Pat was pretty buzzed, too. Syd reached a hand out, and out of the blue Pat leaned in.
Syd looked surprised. Surprised in an excited sort of way, though. Syd had just been reaching, it turned out, for the jacket on the floor. Pat retreated. Syd followed. Their noses touched.
Pat didn’t do this sort of thing.
Pat didn’t know this was something nice.
Syd thought it was nice, too. What were trips for, if not to have adventures? Then Syd thought how Pat was so different in everything, and Syd became worried. Sweaters and nightclubs and smiles aside, Syd never set out to be a jerk.
“Are you on board with this? You know – I’m leaving tomorrow…”
But Pat wasn’t bothered. Pat had watched enough Star Trek to know the two-ships-in-the-night concept.
They were two ships in the night. Nice night. Good beer. Fun music.
The next day Pat put Syd in an airport shuttle. Syd was already smiling at the driver. The shuttle departed, and Pat was left with a sort of curiosity and a slight earache and ninety-five euros. It had been an odd few days.
Syd made small talk with the driver, but thought about Pat. Syd wasn’t much of a ships-in-the-night person, it turned out. Syd wanted friendships. But Berlin was very far from Melbourne…
On landing Syd emailed Pat thanks and Syd’s Netflix password. All of Star Trek was on there. Syd wasn’t as big a fan, but it was nice to see Pat’s queue. Nice, and only a little like stalking. Syd laughed the first time a show in Syd’s own queue suddenly reset to the pilot. Pat was doing some stalking, too.
Syd kept doing digital design. Pat became a back-end software engineer. The Netflix queues got longer. Seasons changed.
Somewhere around season four Syd was offered a three-month project abroad.
Pat’s company was thinking of expanding, too.
Pat and Syd were born unlikely to meet. They met, unlikely to click, and they clicked, unlikely to stick. But the world between them had gotten a lot smaller since their birth. People were clicking in all sorts of ways. People who were different. People who were not. The lines on the map got redrawn in this new world.
It wasn’t quite the worlds of science fiction. But it was something.
And Pat and Syd kept moving closer, on winding contour lines on shrinking maps, and who knew what would happen when they found themselves in the same coat check queue again?