You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew – Pocahontas
At what point does a stranger stop being a stranger?
Is it when the stare lingers on one moment too long? Or when your hands brush and then don’t pull away? Is it when they voice out your thoughts for the first time?
We all have two kinds of songs we love. The first kind, you want to share with the world and sing out loud from rooftops. But there’s always the other kind, the kind you want to keep to yourself, with tender greed, extracting all the joy from it as if to feed your soul and your soul alone; as if any other soul extracting joy from it would mean less for you. With the right music, you either forget or remember everything. People can be like that too.
And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter – they are so rusty, so feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. And the silence is warm and the conversation is intoxicating and there’s one part of you that’s holding you back because you know the sparks never last but there’s the other part of you that makes you realise that he’s a favourite song of the second kind, and so there’s nothing to worry about.
For once, the sparks aren’t the best part.
I don’t know when I became such a sucker for familiarity. I don’t know how it is that he is so familiar to me, or why it feels less like I’m getting to know him and more like I’m remembering who he is. How every smile, every touch brings me closer to the impossible conclusion that I’ve known him before, kissed him before, in some other existence.
You can always get to know someone by asking them straight forward questions. Where do you work? How tall are you? What did you study and where did you grow up? Grown up questions about things that grown-ups think matter. If you only ask the questions everyone else is asking, you’ll only get to know what everyone else knows.
What if I have different questions? I’m not interested in who he thinks he is. I’m not interested in who other people think he is. I don’t care what car he drives or what brands he wears. I refuse to fall in love with anything but the words that flutter from the crevices of his mind people failed to explore. I want to know what colour he likes his sunset. I want to know what he thinks of when he drives alone. I want to know what makes him sigh. These aren’t questions you can ask people, simply because these aren’t things most people know about themselves. The only answers we have ready are the ones we think matter.
I think that’s when someone stops being a stranger. When you ask them a question that makes them think and they answer it honestly, smiling as they talk, their eyes wandering, knowing they’ve never answered it before, oblivious to the part of their soul leaving through their words.
I want to talk to him, about his dreams and fears, and begin everything from the beginning. Taking time, if you think of it, is actually less time consuming. And only when the tide pulls back the sand from under your toes, you realize that you can’t hold onto something by holding on. Happiness doesn’t leave scars and peace is so difficult to remember. That’s why you need to keep it with you.
And that’s why I’d like him to stay. We all start as strangers.