Moment of Tangency: A Glimpse of What Might Have Been

n. a glimpse of life as it might've been, had you made slightly different choices along the way


From geometry, the tangent to a plane curve is the point at which a line 'just touches' the curve, where they share precisely the same angle, before separating again and carrying on to infinity.



The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language-to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don't yet have a word for.


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Moment of tangency.

You and I have never met, many times before.

Our paths might have crossed once or twice online,

or passing in the street,

We might've lived in the same neighborhood all our lives,

but against incredible odds,

we just happened to miss each other.

It's a big world, after all.


Our days must be filled with these chance encounters,

that for a million tiny reasons, never actually take place.

Accidental strangers, who just happened to miss their cue.

who share everything in common,

except for time and place.


For years, their stories might've been happening in parallel,

harmonizing from somewhere across the world,

but neither has any idea

that the other even exists.

Because if two lines are truly parallel,

it means they'll never actually meet.

It's hard not to wonder where they are right now,

veering away on a tangent, in some parallel universe,

Hard not to glance at a stranger in a crowd,

and imagine the life you might have shared,

if things had been different,

and feel a pang of missed connection

as you carry on your separate ways,

leaving nothing but an echo

of something that might have been.


You never know how many things had to happen exactly right

for you to meet the one you love,

You never know how easily fate might have tipped you onto some other course,

meeting some stranger, who would feel like a soulmate.

Maybe you'd still be telling your friends it was always meant to be,

As if you knew all along

that your paths would cross.

Or maybe you'd look back at your life and realize:

it was nothing personal-it's all just a coincidence.


You never know.