An Encounter with a Stranger

Photo by Kevar Whilby on Unsplash

I saw him in the park. Minding his own business, lost in his thoughts, just as I was. His clothing was nondescript, his face as common as any. He glanced up briefly when I sat on a neighboring bench and we exchanged a cursory hallo, before we both looked away.

I didn’t give him another thought as I set about creating a space to immerse myself in below the forest canopy. Barely had I settled in when a movement at the corner of my eye caught my attention. He had risen to his feet and was headed in my direction. As he approached I took in his almost careless gait, legs encased in faded jeans, hanging low on his hips. At first glance, he appeared disheveled but something about him piqued my attention.

He spoke, his voice low and deep, requesting to use my laptop to charge his phone. I acquiesced, surprising even myself as I motioned him to seat opposite me. A quick introduction and we were already chatting about the weather and other commonalities. The conversation flowed easily as I quickly realized that I had completely misjudged him. I admitted as much to him and he chuckled lightly; confessing that he had also misread me.

Feeling comfortable with my new acquaintance, I offered him the rest of my sandwich which he readily accepted. I could see that he was as curious as me as I was about me. We swapped stories about life, politics and the environment – each of us basking in the rare glow of soul companionship. It was easy to talk to him and he made me laugh. He got a rare blush from me when he insisted that the sun had braved the clouds just to see my smile.

As the sun began to ease towards the horizon, we set off on a walk in the woods. Turns out he was a bird watcher and he was happy to give me a crash course. His muscles rippled beneath his cotton tee as he pointed out various specimens. Occasionally he would stand behind me as he guided my gaze towards an elusive sight within the trees. His warm breath tickled my ear and I found my breath quickening, the hairs on the back of my neck rising.

The air stood heavy between us, two strangers like passing ships in the night. He had the air of someone I once used to know, an encounter with a long forgotten friend. He felt safe and it had been a long time since I had felt safe anywhere. Almost as if he noticed my melancholy, he looked at me gently with a smile in his eyes. Cocking his head to the side, he tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear and allowed his hand to linger on my cheek.

We stood frozen in the moment, toe to toe, our breaths softly intermingling in the light evening air. Abruptly a bird squawked in the trees high above us, breaking our reverie. He stepped back onto the path and held out his hand towards me with an enigmatic smile. I smiled back, slipping my hand into his easily and we walked back to the campsite.  

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