I fell in love with a stranger today.
And I do not know why.
It’s not a regular occurrence for me. I’m not a romantic. I don’t dream of a life with a partner – getting married, buying a house, growing old together in a living room with sagging couches. I don’t think about love much at all, really. For myself at least. It’s not something I am typically drawn to. As a full-time college student with multiple jobs, a filmmaker, a very independent woman, and a cat lady (everyone in my life knows they come second to my cat), a companion of the non-platonic nature isn’t something I feel that I need or want in my life. And let’s not even get started on the fact that I am very much not in the emotional state to handle a relationship right now.
But for some reason, on peculiar occasions that happen only slightly more often than the second coming of Christ, I fall in love with someone I don’t even know.
It’s been with people sitting across from me on a crowded city bus, someone meandering with a stack of books tucked under their arm at Barnes and Noble, or, in this most recent case, a boy with a flashy red motorcycle helmet in my hometown Starbucks.
What I despise (see: love) about these certain people is that I am drawn to them so strongly. It’s more than just a “oh, you’re cute” kind of feeling and more of a “I genuinely want to know you as a person” deal.
I never talk to them of course. I’m too shy to be able to do that. But I indulge myself and take down the walls surrounding my own mindscape, even if it’s just for a few moments while they wait in line for their coffee. I ponder what it would actually be like to fall in love. To actually build a life with someone. To actually grow old on saggy couches.
Then I study their face as discreetly as I can when they turn, committing it to memory. They grab their coffee. They walk out the door. They never know.
And they don’t need to. Maybe they have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or maybe they’re just like me, and are comfortable being alone. The two of us are a missed connection; two fish swimming in parallel currents – ever near, within reach, but impossible to obtain and not meant to be.
This doesn’t make me sad though. If anything it makes me even more curious about the human condition: our wants and our needs, our fantasies and realities, our emotions and logic. I like to pretend I’m impervious to all of these things even though in my gut I know I’m not.
Encounters with strangers like these remind me that I am, at my core, human. They provide a flicker of warmth to an otherwise monotonous day and give me a reason to smile. I hold on to the feeling they give me for as long as I can. Sometimes it’s just the rest of the day. Sometimes it’s weeks after I’ve seen them, and their face pops into my head, and the corners of my lips twitch upwards into a small smile.
In a way, I owe them.