I’ve taken to strangers in a way that’s quite strange, but very necessary. These times call for the ability to prove to oneself that you are still capable of faithfully executing the basics of human interactions, that end with the mutual understanding and respect for humanhood.
Each day, at the coffee shop as I sit and observe while cranking the slew of words that will save me for the month, I make eye contact with lone visitors, who fall for the spell of my braids. It’s hard to ignore the purple and gray combo and how they hang down my back like attention seekers.
The start of these short conversations are almost identical, as I painstakingly explain the genesis of my hairstyle, and each time, I add a twist about when and how I began to gray, and the age, and my age gets younger. It’s fun to be someone else for ten minutes or less, especially when the “real you” needs a deserving break.
The “writer” part always stays intact with airbrushes of how I’m drafting the book proposal, which isn’t true. I plan on doing that at some point, but waiting until the chaos in my head lessens, and from what I can gather, that’s not happening anytime soon.
Even in this climate, where being a writer has lost the value it once had years ago, before the web made it so easy to publish shit, and then go back a hundred times to revise it to what it was supposed to be the first time around — I’m still able to garner the look of wonderment that I recognize and love.
And then once our statuses have been verified, it’s on to the vital matter of logistics that never really get deeper than the basics. None of us outdo or outrank each other when it comes to the journey we’ve had thus far and the projection for the future.
I’m usually the single one, who’s falsely content with exploring options both professionally and personally. They’re almost always settled in an existence that’s full with motherhood and wifely duties or the addition of being the doting grandmother, who looks way too young to claim those stately years.
The point is that I’m becoming addicted to the smile that’s tossed my way in a non-judgmental fashion, the signal of purity that doesn’t have the weight of familiarity. It’s the look of newness that feels baptismal and rejuvenates my stale spirit, as I return the favor with immense gratitude, and with the wellspring of wishes that this feeling will last a little bit longer this time.
Strangers don’t have any reason to offer a tiresome retort or underwhelm with short responses that say so much and do very little to protect the thin layer of endurance that binds. The people you don’t know at all and find out enough about in a matter of minutes, are sticky sweet nice because they have no reason to be passively distant or weirdly dismissive at the worst possible moment.
The scene is setup for wins, and with each brand new encounter, I get more comfortable, and less nervous to be vulnerable as I reveal details that inspire empathy, and also garner the immediate degree of hopefulness that fits the scope of the required Hollywood ending.
I have all the time in the world to be immersed in the direness of reality and how the great escape will have to wait for the connection with another willing human, who never seems to be holding the gadgets that dominate our sensors.
The magic of a clean slate can’t and shouldn’t be underestimated because it’s the key to survival when the steps of daily living become too heavy to command the motivation for that extra climb.
How do you reconcile what you are with the descriptions of those who know enough to dismantle your fragile state to smithereens?
It seems that those relationships are marvelously fractured, and it was no one’s doing, which makes repairs that much more complicated and almost too risky to implement.
So, there’s just the investment in strangers that flow in and out with remarkable ease, and with the coating of acknowledgement of how we can dutifully interact without sounding alarms or turning away with unanswered questions, that require us to imaginatively fill in the blanks.
There are no clicks or hearts that light up in this scenario, or even long-winded comments with directions to nowhere. No online riots are threatening the horizon with damning information that was furiously unearthed as proof of how we’ve become or worst selves for free.
There are no unexpectedly accusatory text messages that disrupt a perfectly serene evening with enough ammunition to destroy what was barely there, but stood a chance of recovery…if only.
The rules of engagement have become an enlarged battlefield of wills that has captivated enough souls to initiate the fury of the rapture.
Only online illiterates are recognizable, and even they are in danger of succumbing to the wrath of decoding the language of our extinction, if time permits.
They say that the end of days will unleash the phases of betrayal, as members of clans will turn against each other without cause, and with the same dutifulness and enthusiasm that cemented those bonds.
But for me, this transitional period isn’t as unsettling as it might’ve been if I was completely stripped of the ability to establish connections with people that don’t know me, until I stop being a stranger.
I can start being a friend long enough to be validated as human. It only takes about seven minutes. And then it’s over.
It’s a necessary sport, and the best part is that I win every time.