Familiar Stranger

Last week I was ruminating over how interesting it is that there are people in my life who I know by name and yet they are strangers to me.  The people at my favorite bar, Crush, all know me by name and I know them by name.  And yet, I know very little beyond that.

Similar with some of the people who make my coffee down at Floyds Coffee.  I talk with some of them and even have conversations about things going on with them, but even know I can know these details it never occurred to me that they just became acquaintances or even friends.

There are patrons at the bar that I know by name, but haven’t really spoken to them beyond daily pleasantries.  We recognize each other to the point that we wave when we see each other walking around the neighborhood!

But yet— I still think of some of them as strangers.  But familiar ones.

This even extends to one sided narratives to people I see from my car.  This is what made me start to think about this concept.  I drive across this bridge to go pick up Laryssa after work.  And since a lot of people get off work when I do, I inevitably begin to see the same people each day walking across the bridge.

There is this one woman who walks the bridge each day.  I noticed her because she was wearing full jeans and a jacket in the crippling heat of summer.  I saw her each time I drove across that bridge.  I thought it was strange that it could be so hot and she’s always wearing the same long, heavy clothing.

Then one day when the wind was blowing it pushed all of her clothes against her frame, and I saw that she was painfully thin.  I frowned to myself and gave a silent remark that I hoped she was alright.  But week by week, month by month I watched her become hunched and frail.

What specifically made me think to write this post is that last week I realized I hadn’t seen her in a couple weeks.

I’ve never met this woman.  I don’t know her name.  I don’t know whats wrong, but I know she doesn’t walk the bridge anymore.  And yet I urgently want to find her and make sure shes being taken care of and getting help.

I’ve never met this woman but I knew her narrative.  She walked the bridge everyday at 5:10, so I guessed she had a job.  Her clothes were clean and her hair styled, so she still cared about her appearance.  She carried a messenger bag so I guessed she might be a student.

Was she getting help?  Someone else must be noticing whats happening to you.

I hope that she is taking the bus or walking a new path or is getting help.  Should I have done something?  Should I have stopped one day and found her and asked if she needed help?  What can I do?  I’m merely a stranger.

I haven’t seen her in a while.  And I’ll always hope for the best, but it is weirdly distressing being in such a uniquely helpless scenario.  And then it made me think of all the familiar strangers that I suddenly just don’t see anymore.

I used to buy crickets for my lizard Kyuzo every other day.  The lady who worked at Petsmart used to talk to me about The Walking Dead.  And then one day I adopted Kyuzo away to someone else, and I just simply never returned to Petsmart.  Did she wonder about me?

There were numerous kids who came to Big Al’s arcade whom knew me as Dan the Man, Bringer of the Eternal Party, and then one day I just wasn’t there anymore.  Those kids came back and probably asked for me, and one day they were told I no longer worked there.

One of the old bartenders that used to serve me food at Crush five days a week quit abruptly over one weekend, and I haven’t seen him since.  I talked to that dude for years, and then one day he’s just gone.

It makes me wonder how many familiar strangers I’ve forgotten over the years.  How many people did I used to see everyday and then one day we just never saw each other again.  Makes me think and get all super pensive.  Its weird to try and express my thoughts on the matter.

Do you have familiar strangers?

-DTM

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