convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #60

strangers? yup, i talk to them. here’s why.

me: i’d like a small dark chocolate hot chocolate, please.

her: that’ll be [some amount of money i now forget].

me: *pays with cash*

her: do you want your receipt?

me: no, thanks.

her: is there anything else?

me: *stares, as if that will help decipher what she said. (you see, i had one ear bud in, but the music was on pause, so there was no reason i shouldn’t have heard her* *thinks to self: is this what it’s like for people to talk to soft-spoken me?* *sounds transmit* *brain calculates* *thinks more to self: what would normally be said at this point in a transaction?*

her: *starts to repeat herself*

me: oh, do i need anything else?

her: *smiles*

me: no, i’m all set. thanks.

then i, along with my thoughts, stepped to the side to wait for my very special brand of hot chocolate (read: it tastes like a melted candy bar.)

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convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #59

i occasionally talk to strangers. here’s the reason why.

i’d just finished my crossfit workout and was headed home. i was walking, balancing my water bottle in the crook of my arm, and typing on my phone. (i’m not normally one to type on my phone whilst walking, but i had to put in the details of my workout before i forgot them.) i came up upon the crosswalk of danger.*

*this crosswalk is named as such (by me) because, when driving, it’s incredibly hard to see pedestrians waiting to cross, so it appears they pop out of nowhere causing you to slam on your breaks to avoid (a) hitting them and (b) breaking the law of not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk. having been on the driving side of that, i’m usually petrified to cross there on foot. i’m very tentative and don’t usually cross until cars have stopped completely or there’s an vast gap between cars and i can sprint to the other side.

so, back to the moment. i looked up from my phone to check the status of the cars. one was headed towards me, so i turned my attention to my phone while i waited for it to pass. two voices caught my attention. i glanced up and two men were in the crosswalk. i looked back at the car. it didn’t appear to be slowing. i stared at the men. they were continuing boldly on. i looked at the car. it may have slowed its speed a touch. i studied the men. they studied me. i studied the car.

i figured “what the heck” and stepped into the road.

man #1: we’ll protect you.

man #2: we’ll stop him.

me: THANK YOU. *walks in path between two bodyguards*

my thanks was of the sincerest variety because after the workout i’d just completed, my arms were nothing more than cubes of jello and wouldn’t help in whatever precarious situation a crosswalk + a blind spot + a speeding car could create. also, that was the first time i’ve felt safe as a pedestrian on that portion of the road. thanks to those guys, maybe it’s time to rename the crosswalk of danger?

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convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #58

i occasionally talk to strangers. here’s the story of why i do such a thing.

i was walking to work on a cloudy, cool spring morning.

man: there’s a blue sky to the west.

woman: i see it!

me: *thinks to self, they’re neighbors. how cute. i see the blue sky too, but they weren’t talking to me.*

i kept my eye on the sky and continued on my way.

boy: good morning.

me: *turns head* *realizes it’s not me he’s addressing*

girl: hi!

me: *another set of neighbors or, more likely, classmates, saying hi. i love the sense of community, but when’s it my turn?*

i clutched my coffee cup and kept shuffling towards work. i spotted my sidewalk regular and knew my turn had arrived. i couldn’t contain my grin.

her: hi.

me: good morning!

and it was, especially since my route to work kept me headed literally and figuratively towards that blue sky.

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convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #57

i sometimes talk to strangers. here’s why.

i was scurrying to work on a blustery morning. i was on the later side of things and was already pondering my to do list for the day. meetings and projects and decisions and more meetings mounted in my head and i stopped paying attention to what my feet and hands were doing. as such, my thermos o’ decaf coffee hit my thigh and in direct opposition to my own clumsiness stuck its landing gracefully and upside down.

“huh,” i thought, pausing, studying, and laughing before leaning down to pick it up.

“that doesn’t happen twice,” a guy said.

i looked up at where i was; at the junction of where an apartment complex’s entrance hits the main sidewalk. of course this would happen in front of an audience. “no, it does not,” i said, smiled, and hoped the rest of my day would follow the trajectory of my thermos — graceful, albeit upside down.

it’d be better than me stumbling upright through the remaining hours.

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what a wild, nerve-wracking, quiet, loud, small, large, intense day friday was.

my phone had been charging in the other room, so i hadn’t heard the various text messages popping up throughout the night. i did hear the phone ringing at 6:30am, which ripped me out of bed as my phone doesn’t ring often and even more rarely does it ring that early. fearing the worst and feeling confusion as i saw it was the city of cambridge calling, i answered.

it was an automated voice telling me to stay inside as an armed and dangerous suspect was on the run.

i blinked the sleep out of my eyes and the confusion mounted as i saw i had 12 text messages from work’s emergency system, from cambridge’s emergency system, and from my two local-est friends. they painted a picture of an increasingly dangerous situation which started not that far from my apartment and ended up in the town over from mine. i flipped on the news and called my old roommate, hoping they and she could calm my increasing anxiety.

no one knew much other than it seemed the police force was always just on the brink of something.

twitter was on fire as was my phone. texts and calls and tweets made me feel slightly less alone, but the lock down issued for my town ensured i was. the hours pressed on, as did the police. i kept my sneakers on convinced a knock on my door was imminent. i checked in on friends and they checked in on me.

the sense of community was a fluid and strengthening thing, despite the fact none of us could see each other. we were doing our part by staying put and staying out of the way.

stories poured in of friends seeing their work places on TV and poured out: i used to live quite close to where the suspects’ apartment was. a picture of lunchtime, which included 5 extra faces was sent by a friend of a friend. why the extra company and how during a supposed lock down? a family, displaced by the search through the suspects’ old apartment, had been taken in by that friend of a friend. a coworker of mine recognized the older brother suspect as he lived a block away and had stopped to let said suspect pet his dog once upon a time. a friend in my apartment building had been at mile 22 waiting to “run bandit” pushing and coaching and supporting her friend to the finish line even though she herself wasn’t a registered runner. the friend’s pace was slower than anticipated meaning they were far enough from the finish line to get pushed off course by the cops.

more and more and more the stories piled up as the police chased down leads and all our questions remained unanswered. boredom took over as my 400 square foot apartment felt smaller than ever. i paced. i worried. i inhaled. i plopped on the couch. i exhaled. i recognized places on the news. i heard stories of a 19yo boy that painted an entirely different picture than the photos of the bombing did. i inhaled. everything was done with unease.

the decree that the lock down was over despite having no suspect in custody was heard throughout town, but i was too scared to leave. how could they not have caught him? how could he have escaped? how would they find him now? where would he go? they weren’t giving up, were they? was there more terror to come? what should i do now?

a mere 30 minutes later, i sat on the couch with a pounding heart as the suspect was located in a boat barely outside the 20 block search radius. the whoops and hollers and applause could be heard as people finally flooded the streets.

i myself grabbed a drink with a friend at the only open spot, the local-est of dive bars. it felt right being surrounded with the grittiest of bostonians because that day, that week, we all were.

as i walked to the library the next day (which took me past the building which was the younger suspect’s high school), i noticed the hastily scrawled, handwritten “closed until further notice” signs on businesses and the fear i thought i’d breathed away knocked at the corners of my mind. the relief i felt crashed into the sadness of the previous days. the pride and gratitude for the cops and first responders mingled with the uncertainty of how those physically affected by the bombings would heal. the confusion of how a 19 year old with such potential could turn out so dark tickled my writer’s mind.

the fact i couldn’t call my mom to make these feelings go away haunted me.

even those within the state of massachusetts but outside the borders of the locked down areas couldn’t quite understand what it was like hearing nothing outside all day and then a burst of sirens and then nothing and then helicopters and then nothing and then more nothing and then sirens, so how could my mom? how could i expect her to help when i didn’t know how to ask for advice?

i truly felt like an adult in that moment and yet i was sad i was having an experience outside her knowledge because i wanted nothing more than for her hug to soothe everything away.

instead, i commiserated with nearby friends and my neighbors and other locals, all of whom had never looked better or stronger or brighter.

this is boston after all and we are boston strong.

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