The Kindness of Strangers

I sometimes talk to strangers.

Usually it happens when I’m waiting in line. I really don’t like just standing there doing nothing. I’ve written out thank-you notes waiting for a latte, and addressed my envelopes while I’m waiting to buy stamps. I just don’t like standing and doing nothing but waiting.

I’d catch up on phone calls, which is how I multi-task in the car, but I think it’s rude to carry on phone conversations while waiting in line when the other people can’t help but overhear. Plus, I have some weirdly intimate phone conversations. Remember, my best friend lives out of state, and she hears about every aspect of my life. And vice versa.

A few months ago, right around my birthday, I was standing in a particularly long line in front of this really handsome, clean-cut business type. I had a birthday card I’d received poking out of my bag, and he asked me about it.

It turned out that our birthdays were exactly six months apart. I’m February 14th. He’s August 14th. I laughed and told him about my long history with Leos.

He thought it was strange, too. “Bizarre,” he’d said.

I told him that I didn’t plan it that way. Case in point, he’d started talking to me, not the other way around.

“Talk about ‘bizarre.’ Do you always strike up conversations with strangers?” I’d asked him.

He’d recently gotten married, so I asked him how they’d met. He gave me the story. It was actually a pretty nice one. It had taken him a few years to realize he’d loved her, but once he’d finally figured it out, he was all in. I remember thinking she must be an amazingly patient woman.

Then came the question, “Well, since you know my life story now. What about you?”

At the time I was in the midst of something that wasn’t working out, and I told him so. “It’s funny, but he’s a Leo, too. We’re trying to work on being friends, but I’m not sure if that’s possible. He told me once he couldn’t be friends with me, that he’d always want more.” Then I took a good look at this stranger and, before I thought better of it, said, “I thought he was kinda full of it, you know?”

“You think he’s lying about that?”

“Yeah, I do. I think he just doesn’t want to tell me the truth. It’s not easy to tell someone that you like them, but you just don’t like them, like them.”

He looked to see who was around, took a deep breath, and said, “He’s not lying. He can’t be friends with you. Look, I don’t know him, but by virtue of being a Leo myself, I can tell you that I wouldn’t be able to be just friends with you. I couldn’t do it. I mean, look at us now.”

Somehow, he and I had made it through the line, taken care of our business, and were now standing in the lobby finishing our conversation. And, yeah, we were flirting.

I laughed again and said, “Well, I warned you when you started talking to me.”

“I know, I know,” and then he got serious again, “You don’t know me from Adam. We’ll probably never see each other again, and that’s a good thing. But whatever is wrong in this ‘thing’ you’re in, it’s not going to get better. You’re going to have to walk away.”

I looked into his eyes, and I knew he was speaking the truth.


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