There is a sequence in the ‘Mr. Nobody’ film that has always bothered me. In a fictional smartphoneless 21st century, Jared Leto plays Nemo, a hip 30-something who has been waiting two decades to reunite with the love of his childhood. He lost her trace when they were teenagers. He didn’t have her phone number, address, nothing. In this excruciating sequence, against all odds, he randomly runs into her at a train station. After 20 years! They immediately recognize each other and go on to have a great time the rest of the afternoon. Then, she apologizes as she has to leave for some time. Before saying goodbye in the middle of a busy sidewalk, she writes down her phone number (landline, I suppose) on a piece of paper and asks Nemo to call her in the future. Nemo stares at the paper for two seconds when it suddenly starts raining. The phone number is erased by the water, and his soulmate has long disappeared into the crowd. All that is left of their relationship is a wet piece of paper with unrecognizable ink stains.
What a nightmare.
Now, don’t worry. That sequence is hardly a spoiler from a very complicated movie. What annoys me is that in such a universe there could be like-minded people, friends, or soulmates who could entirely disappear from your reality without you being able to reach them ever again. That picture is almost inconceivable today. A surname and the school you went to with your childhood pals is enough information to find them online.
I could rant about the loss of privacy in an increasingly surveilled society, but it wouldn’t get me closer to the point I want to make. This is not about the NSA, nor it’s about stalking people on Facebook.
It’s about a realization I had this weekend when I went out to the city center and befriended someone with whom I had some acquaintances in common but with whom I never exchanged ‘numbers’. We both left early because we needed to study the morning after. We walked back together to the Stadsweide where she lived, and since I lived further ahead, I hopped on my bike and started saying goodbye.
‘Text when you get home!’ she yelled from the building’s door. ‘I don’t have your number!’, I yelled back, immediately realizing I didn’t need it. ‘Nevermind, I’ll find you,’ I corrected myself and started cycling.
Once home, I opened my Facebook and typed her name into the searching box. We go to the same university so her profile appeared on the top. I clicked on it and sent her an ‘I’m home!’ message. She replied within seconds and I figured I should add her as a friend.
I could move out of the country tomorrow without saying a word and still, she wouldn’t be out of my reach. I know where to find her. No numbers, no ink, no crowds to get lost in.