The Awkwardness of Stranger Danger

xxxxxI can see it clearly on street level. I don’t even have to move. The faces approach whether I watch or not – but who can truly ignore such a scene. Choreographed stereotypes. It’s always the same. Like a wave in a sports stadium when the sidewalks get thick – the rise and then the nod, nearly fluid motion continuum, an unbroken chain.


xxxxxI’m drawn by these moments, as if these strangers have given in to me, laying their vulnerability at my feet. It’s quite baffling and terribly sad. It’s a transfiguration of sorts, in the moment of passing – the subtle movements in the face, ripples of emotion passing through the skin, the shaded eyes, bowed shoulders, tense in the wake of my shadow of uncertainty. They always peek, of course, in the final moment before I disappear from their field of vision (reality). Curiosity tickles through like unstoppable laughter, pushing forward the limbs and muscles to move beyond the will.
xxxxxI stand firm in a forest of naked trees, branches trimmed and tied loosely at the knees. I see it all from my perch amidst the flowers, foam gravestones floating to the black water – and I never look away. I cannot look away. I’m mesmerized by the tranced glaze of darting orbs, the chaos rhythm, emotions in swarms oozing through the spaces between, within, to embrace in the awkward dance of fearful curiosity. The dazed repetition drugs me.

xxxxxA middle-aged man with two small dogs on long leashes pass me. Once he’s close enough to accomplish direct soul contact with my eyes, he nods, then looks to the sidewalk as if suddenly interested in watching his feet move. I watch him intently, and his face carves lines of sadness and loneliness across his expression, muscles firm and self-absorbed and even a hint of pride, perhaps. He doesn’t look up again until he’s passed, stealing a quick glance as he goes.

xxxxxA young couple approach, talking casually. Once in visual range of my eyes, the young man nods, then looks down, faltering slightly in his speech. The woman holds his arm in hers, gazing at his face with calm amusement and admiration – and as they pass me a sense of pride seems to rise through her form, as if she means it for me to see. She doesn’t look at me, but I can feel the acknowledgement of my presence in both of them – as if they stiffen slightly, vibrations tightening in the uncertain moment.

xxxxxThree young women, beautiful and chattering like birds, snapping their heels toward me. Two glance at me with curious, angry eyes, then quickly look away and watch the ground. The third stares, hard and arrogant straight into my face. I gaze back calmly, sinking into her expression, and her eyes suddenly seem to soften. She can see my open heart in the corner of my smile, maybe? They flit away, their chattering not faltering for a second.

xxxxxA middle-aged couple holding hands. The man glances nervously, then looks down, the face of a meek, surrendered dog. The woman sees me with an air of apprehension, so I smile and put her at ease, sending my friendly love into her. She relaxes, smiles soft kindness and holds her gaze in my eyes for a moment, curious, then joins her mate in the meek watching of the sidewalk passing by below them. I watch them continue down the street in silence, and I bloom a wave of happiness, absorbing the love the woman returned.

xxxxxAnother middle-aged couple. They breeze by me with high chins and stiff necks – holy and proud. I can smell their refusal to look at me, taste their bitter hate and stale pride on their tight lips. Such curious faces, so frigid and painful looking, determined to ignore the self-motivated demons laughing in their ears. I can nearly hear their minds: “You are nothing. I’m not going to look at you. You’re not even there. This is my world and I don’t want you in it. The nerve of you to look at me and not drop your eyes. How rude!” I fill my heart with love and direct a wave of peace into them. They turn to stone and their demons spit on my kindness in disgust. A ripple of sadness seeps through me, weakened by the loss of my love, yet not a waste – the sacrifice is worth it, for I’m strengthened in my will by the effort that I made.

xxxxxPerhaps the next time we cross paths, their stone wall will not be strong enough to shield them from my love. One can always hope. Despair is for cowards and sloths.

xxxxxA ruckus of barks and laughter as four university boys approach. A subtle balloon of chests, and they all look at me at different times – curious, quick glances withdrawn the instant I make contact, to return to the safety of their friends’ attention. One of them nods when I catch his eyes, then swiftly looks to the other side of the street, as if suddenly drawn to the closed, dark stores for some mysterious reason.

xxxxxA young woman, walking quiet and slow, her loneliness glowing blatantly like an invisible light…

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