Hello Stranger

I see you stranger, going the other way down the sidewalk. A younger me might have collided with your path, causing us to awkwardly interact as we shuffle left and right. These days, I use a method I picked up in college. I look down at my feet as we get closer, maybe 20 feet away. After a few seconds, about six steps, I look back up. By then, you’ve clearly chosen a side – left or right – and given me mine. Thank you.

Hi stranger, I can tell you want something from me. You’re just standing there, and you’re not even looking at a phone. Whether or not you have a clipboard, I can tell. You’re waiting for me. I hope somebody else will get to you just before me, grabbing your attention so that I can avoid another interaction. Otherwise, I’ll probably have to lie to you. The truth is, whatever it is you’re hoping for, I don’t want to. But the truth sounds bad when you ask me if I want to spend one minute fighting white supremacy. I don’t want to. See? So I’ll mumble to you that I don’t have the time, sorry. Good luck, though.

Oh hey stranger, you know you’re kind of in the way right now. You’re taking up two seats. You’re not standing far enough back. You’re blocking the top of the stairs. Your backpack doesn’t need the space of a full person. These are sins, stranger. I’m judging you. You see, I’ve always been afraid of being in people’s way. Maybe it’s because my dad yelled at pets that were in his way. Or drivers that were in his way. I hated learning to drive, and I wonder if that’s why. In any case, I’ve grown up to think that what you’re doing, standing in the way, makes you a bad person. It’s too bad you didn’t happen to grow up the same way I did, stranger. I probably wouldn’t think harshly of you if you did.

You know stranger, you’re quite attractive. And not just technically. Practically. I want to talk to you. I want you to smile at me specifically, because it’s a genuine smile. I bet I could even marry you. I know that’s a little quick, but you see I have this system. I’ve already classified you. Stranger with that kind of face and those kinds of clothes doing those sorts of things in that kind of way. There are a lot of archetypes, sure, but not nearly as many as there are strangers. You’ve got more options if you’re white, though. I’ve met more of you, so you have more nuanced categories. If not, then you’re in a much bigger class. In any case, you’ve got an archetype I fancy, so we’re a great match. If we talked, maybe you’d get your own file. But we won’t. You’ll last another block as I think about how you would make me so happy, then fade into the murk.

Wow stranger, you are fascinating. It’s something about your look, your attitude, the words you’re saying. It’s your whole package. You look like a parody of a person. You’re the perfect character, something crafted by professionals behind the scenes. Yet, here you are. Just being yourself, the way you choose to be. And how is it that this is who you choose to be? You woke up today. You went through a morning routine. Maybe you remembered a dream, or showed up late to work, or had a good idea, or thought about your mom. You’ve lived a whole life. A full experienced, stuffed to the edges with the mundane and the unique and the sad. They all point at this one moment, our moment, after which your life bursts back into a swarming mass of pursuits and relationships and missteps. Your massive life overwhelms me, and I do not know it.

Anyway stranger, I’ll see you tomorrow. We should talk, one of these days. I’d like that, in theory. It sounds nice, when we’re apart. It doesn’t seem like a good idea when I see you, though. Something tells me to avoid eye contact. To keep interactions to a minimum. To get out of your way. To leave you alone. To let you live your life. Something primitive. I’ve tricked this drive before, but I’m not sure how. Hopefully I’ll figure it out. Maybe tomorrow. Until then,

Goodbye stranger.