moments with strangers

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I have just slowed the peddles of the stationary bike at the gym when I see him, a guy strolling into the open door of the ladies bathroom. He’s looking at his phone, not the sign that says “WOMEN” in all caps, or the photo of a woman jogger at the entryway.

A moment later, as I round the turn near the doorway, he comes back out, a sheepish look on his face. Our eyes meet, and we both giggle.

“Sorry,” he says to to me, as if I am somehow a representative of the entire female gender he has wronged by treading on our sacred turf.

I’m walking home from the farmer’s market. I shift the bag of vegetables I carry, whose strap is wearing a track over my shoulder. It’s unseasonably warm, or maybe there’s no such thing in California. The car is parked on the street, both of its street-side doors hanging open. A woman leans one arm on the roof and rests the other on the door. Her face is twisted in anger.

“Get out of the car, Jordan,” she says.

“Sit your a** down,” says a man from the driver’s seat.

A young boy sits frozen in the back seat, caught between the wills of two people I assume are his parents.

“Get out of the car Jordan,” she yells.

“Sit your a** down,” the dad counters.

My heart breaks for the boy as I pass. No matter what he does, he makes one of the two opposing decision makers in this life mad.

My car is stopped at a red light when I catch a glimpse of him in my rear view mirror. He is unabashedly, fervently singing. I can’t hear the words, but I can see them taking the form of his lips, as he bellows into the cab of his car. I smile at his theatrics.

Somehow, it is endearing to catch an adult in a child-like state. For one minute, he has forgotten the bills and the chores and the stresses of today, and is instead letting them swell from his lungs in the form of song.

I think about it sometimes, how I have these brief encounters with people who have entire lives I will never know, understand or probably ever encounter again. Yet for a few seconds, we cross paths, and I get a glimpse of a stranger’s present moment. Their joy, their embarrassment, their pain.

For them, these seconds are part of their stories. For me, they are moments with strangers.