| Musings |

A Stranger in a Strange Place

Each greeting filled me with joy, each casual wave lifted me on its wings.

The morning’s sky is bright blue. The sun’s yellow rays dapple on the greenery. I step outdoors, inhaling the faint promise of spring.

As I walk, I search. I study the faces I pass, scanning their features.

I’m seeking a flicker of the familiar, a shadow of something shared. A nod, a wave, a smile. An echo of something expressing recognition.

The blues fade and the greens mute. Faces blur as they pass me by, a collage of grey masks, pushing carriages, driving cars, or chatting on street corners. I search them desperately, as they glide by me on silent tracks.

They wear bright scarves and cheerful buttons but I don’t see the scarves or the buttons.

My mind flicks through data, searching frantically in its recesses, but each face draws a painful blank. I don’t know them and they don’t know me.

I step into a crowd, at a wedding, or in a store. I feel vibrant and real, but as I encounter stranger after stranger my outward persona shrinks and fades. I’m not someone anyone knows. It’s me, alone with myself, floundering among people where everybody knows somebody.

Despite the din, I can hear myself breath. I hear my necklace tinkle gently against my collarbone. I hear my down jacket rustle, but not one of these people can hear the circles of loneliness that spin around me in a rhythm of pain. The pain of not belonging.

Last week I flew to my hometown for a visit. Slowly, like an unused motor humming to life, my smile crept up to my lips. It spread upwards to my stiff cheekbones, softening and merging into eyes now shining friendly blue. The petals in my soul unfurled and drank from the sweet nectar of home.

The woodenness left my limbs and they felt lithe and young. My mind whirred and my neck rotated eagerly so as not to miss a familiar face. My heart beat in time with my strides, a song of homecoming on streets so dear.

The faces I now saw as I walked were filled with color, the contours were shaded in warmth, the curves took on soft dimensions and the eyes shone with recognition. I was home.

You know my mother and I knew your sister. Hello!

You were my student and she was my neighbor. Hi!

You babysat my son and she’s my daughter’s friend. Wave.

You taught me parshah in high school. She grew up on my street. Smile.

Hey! We were best friends from kindergarten. HUG!

A web of connection weaving through my town, catching onto my heartstrings and drawing me into an endless loop of I know you and you know me. Years of interaction distilled in a smile, a wave, a greeting.

Faces lit with recognition glowed like suns to me. I drank in smiles that flowed from friendly features. My heart healed a little with each Hello. Each greeting filled me with joy, each casual wave lifted me on its wings.

You know me.

I know you.

And that’s beautiful.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 323)

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