“At least I met Jared Leto.”

Posted: November 16, 2010 in WHOZITS & WHATZITS

Strangers.

I’m starting to get into the habit of talking to strangers.

It’s kind of disturbing in a liberal and funny sorta way. I mean, we’ve always been forewarned against it. The anecdote “Don’t talk to strangers” has practically been the mantra of everyone’s childhood. Strange how such a statement can hold such command and seem so common whilst dripping with such irony it’s almost obvious. Yes, irony. Because if you come to think of it, almost every bond we’ve formed with another human being came into fruition upon the inevitable defiance of that childhood anecdote, which as we get older and hopefully wiser, evolves into something more proactive… something like “Do talk to strangers.” Cause, really, it’s the only way to go. Besides, it’s like free therapy so take advantage.

So, back to my own “strangers” accounts. I started becoming conscious of it one sadistically cold October morning when my car got towed. As I wandered aimlessly around Soho in the hopes of magically finding my car – this was before I found out my car did get towed and I was kind of wishing I just misplaced it as always – a kind stranger outside this small coffee shop I decided to take refuge in started talking to me and asked me if I was okay. I don’t know why or how or what it is about him or the way he asked “Are you okay?” that just had me bursting into tears, crying openly – in public, in front of a total stranger. Despite my way obvious distraught state, I was able to talk and engage in a conversation with this fella. I told him what happened and how frustrated I am and how I don’t know what to do cause I never lost my car like that before… He just stood there, listening, sipping his cup of joe, smoking a cigarette. When I stopped babbling, he offered me a smoke (thank freakin God!) and told me what I should do. He was very calm, almost serene that it pacified the storm in me. Well, kind of. The battle of redeeming my car has just begun after all. But that stranger encounter was such a pivotal point that everything from then on out became… okay. I even saw Jared Leto on my journey from Spring St. to Pier 74 in the West Side. Yup. A cold, grueling 3-miler walk on a Friday morning. And all I could think of was thank heavens that 1) D made me eat a Montreal bagel for breakfast, even if I insisted I’m not a breakfast person; 2) My car was not stolen; 3) Kind stranger gave me that much-needed cigarette; 4) My phone is still alive; 5) I freakin saw Jared Leto!!; 6) I wore comfy heel-less boots; 7) I had Mama K to call. Those were just the top ones but I’m pretty sure there were a gazillion little things I was so grateful for in spite of the fucked up ordeal I had to deal with that freakin Friday. Things I wouldn’t have had the sense to be grateful for had it not been for that stranger encounter enabling me to release the bad vibes, cry it all out shamelessly, allowing me to clear my head and put things in perspective. I could’ve just phoned a friend and do all this, yes. But there’s something so liberating about pouring your heart out to someone who doesn’t know you. It’s free of biases and preconceptions. Free of pride. Free of obligations. Highly personal without being too close. You talk or cry or throw a tantrum; he/she listens, offers you a smoke or drink or sometimes, a hug or just a kind word… What’s important is a stranger was there. At a point when I felt so alone, a stranger was there. And the world has never felt safer.

Hence to forth, I started becoming more conscious of my daily stranger encounters. Shortly after that Soho incident, I found myself talking to this random gas attendant about my love life – or lack thereof. It’s not like I initiate it. In fact, I never do. I always try to stay off those touchy-feely subject matters, even on conversations with friends and/or family. Yet something about the way the convo went or the way his questions were articulated in that simple English coated with a heavy Mediterranean accent or maybe it was my mood that gave it away… whatever. Suddenly, I find myself having to answer the question “Do you love him?” And as I struggled to come up with a safe, pragmatic answer I always manage to concoct on normal circumstances, he asked me again, “Do you love him? Yes or no.” He said it with such authority I felt compelled to answer without thinking. “Of course, I do.” He smiled. I smiled. “Then you know what to do,” he said. I nodded and drove away.

My most recent stranger encounter happened very recently. Just one of your classic pick-up story nightmares – slightly intoxicated boy tries to hit on sober girl, boy offers to buy girl a drink or two, girl accepts, they get a convo goin then before they both know it, they’re in Oprah-land. LOL. Again, I did not initiate the flow. He asked me if I have a boyfriend to which I answered, no. Then he followed it up with a “Why not?” And that worked like a key to Pandora’s box. I just gushed it all out. No holds barred. See, I’ve gotten quite comfy with this whole pouring my heart out to strangers melodrama, it all seemed fine and dandy to me. Heck, I’m starting to get more and more Americanized! When I first decided to actually live here, the first thing I loved about the culture is how people can just talk freely to one another, in the most random places and in the most random of situations like waiting to cross the street. People would just turn to you and make a comment about the weather or the playoffs… anything under the sun. If you do that back home in the PI, people would think you’re weird and deranged and would alienate you at all cost. But I won’t. I never have. I was that kid who’d be sharing a table at Starbucks with all those weirdos. I am one of the weirdos. Still am. But in this place, I am actually part of the norm and it comforts me. ANYWAY. What made this particular encounter worth documenting is that somewhere in the midst of false flattery I can never seem to buy, this dude actually said something profound. He said, “Just ask.” “If you want to know something, just ask. You might get rejected, scare the person off, all the nightmare scenarios in the book. But you will never know unless you ask. And you, you have got to do the asking. Because you have the power.” And I don’t know what made him say that but it struck me enough to actually respect this man and refrain myself from dismissing him so nonchalantly as I normally would under those kinds of circumstances. There was something so honest in the way he gave that piece of advice, something so pure and honest… As if he’s trying to undo something from his life via me. By revealing a part of me I keep so well-hidden even from the people who know me best, he revealed a part of him that I know he keeps so well-hidden even from the people who know him best. It was all rather quite intimate… And I’m in no way attracted to this stranger. Not physically. But there was a bond that’s been formed if only for that moment. And yes, there was light.

“It’s like, that people… Well, that everybody has a secret world inside of them.  I mean everybody.  All of the people in the whole world – no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside.  Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe. Isn’t that a weird thought?” -Barbie

If I didn’t talk to strangers then I wouldn’t have met you and you wouldn’t have met me and I wouldn’t have anything personal to share to feed the million hungry strangers out there, each one becoming less of a stranger, a bit closer to being sated, the more we get ourselves into these magical encounters, which fleeting as they are, always leaves something lasting behind…

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