I’ve always wanted to have a nice conversation with a stranger on a long trip, like an airplane ride or bus ride. It never really happened, maybe because I just fall asleep, also because the age difference leaves much space for hesitation.
You sat, holding George Orwell’s 1984, straining your eyes against the already-set sun and dim blue light of the remnant day, reflecting off the winterpale snow and the glossy windows around us. My elbow was leaned against the armrest, my head leaned against my bent hand, and my thoughts leaned toward my mouth as I chuckled and ask how you could possibly see anything.
You shrugged and smiled in defeat, closing the book shut and saying it was worth a try.
We talked about books. Dystopian novels. The artistic values in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
We talked about school. Our equal fascination in Psychology, and when my motion sickness acted up, you recited the exact paragraph I always knew.
We talked about our travels. Our hatred for crosswalks in London, our love for everything else.
Mostly, we talked about food.
Which place is good for what, what tastes good with what. After 3 hours in, we realized this bus wasn’t going to have any pit stops to grab munchies and satisfy our dry mouths spewing out pieces of our lives in strategic, worded sentences. We talked about food around our neighborhoods, and food in the city. We are both from Brooklyn.
I told you where my boyfriend likes to take me, and your mouth relaxed in an
“Were you trying?”
A shy smile with two fingers parallel,
But this ride had nothing to do with that.
We talked about art, how I love watercolor, how you love sketching.
I told you how I’m bad with graphic patterns, and you finished our sentence with how you’d rather sketch realistic things. Like flowers and people, I continued. Like things in front of you, you concluded. Saying this as we were in front of each other, bodies turned due to conversational magnetism. If I had a pencil at this moment, I would sketch the dark row of chairs behind you, the windows with already lit streetlights, replacing each other within seconds because they’re all the same, they’ve been all the same throughout the line of road this bus has been traveling. But you are not. I would sketch everything except for you, leaving the white space of the paper to hold the spot where you would be. Because we are still strangers. I know windows, I know streetlights. I could close my eyes and draw one, one in the same.
But I don’t know you.
As the bus pulled into port authority and we gathered our belongings, the yellow Q sign on the left, and the blue A sign on the right determined the fork in our destination. With a smile and a goodbye, we continued in opposite directions, blending in once again into the sea of strangers.