Monday, January 17, 2011

Elegy for familiar strangers

Elegy for Familiar Strangers

How comforting is it
as I drive home on a rainy Wednesday
to see the same tired dogged man
and his mainly tired dog
trudging through the puddle-soaked streets?
This one’s for you,
man in the brown detective’s coat
walking your sleepy basset hound day after day
I’ll probably never know your name
you probably never notice my car
swooshing past you on the side of the road

When you die, I surely won’t be at your funeral
and I may not even perceive your absence
but it’s comforting to pass you on the same winding street
at the same time, rain or shine
and marvel at the way our schedules intertwine.

Coming home after being away for awhile
I stop at my favorite grocery store:
the one less than a mile from my childhood home
where my friends and I would spend countless hours
having bike races through the parking lot
and conquering the towering mountains of snow
the plows left behind.
The familiarity is vastly comforting
after having been a foreigner in someone else’s town
and I see a certain boy
with his thick dark eyebrows and beady black eyes
his stride proud and managerial
despite his diminutive stature
I think he might have worked there since the dawn of time
swaddled in a green stop and shop shirt from his birth
which was, coincidentally, somewhere between produce and dairy.
This one is for you, permanent resident of my market
A swift nod and a curt smile
is the only way I know to express my undying gratitude
for the service you’ve provided to me year after year
Sometimes I wonder if you’ll ever leave here

And as I prepare to leave
this tiny cape cod town
I’m sure I won’t miss these locals
familiar strangers, faces of my streets
and I doubt I’ll ever think of them
But when I feel like something is missing
for a brief second as I’m walking to class
it will be the comfort in the same cast and crew
that I’ve found my life running parallel to
the warm reassurance
that I, for some reason, feel
every time I swerve to miss them in the road
or avoid making eye contact with
as I buy a few last minute items
before my long journey.

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