The clock strikes 2 p.m.
And the oat milk latte that I inhaled just an hour ago
Sends caffeine coursing through my veins.
All is quiet except the tip-taps of fingers on a keyboard next to me.
This sunny library spot is swimming in outlets,
And I’m floating on the steroidal satisfaction of stable Wi-Fi.
But nature calls
Tearing me from my perch
And without me knowing so much as
Or their favorite color
Their tip-taps take pause to hear my request for a favor.
In mere moments,
All of my most prized possessions
Are under a stranger’s surveillance.
Only the route to the restroom occupies my thoughts while I’m away.
Upon my return, I nod to the caretaker of my belongings
Now to me not a nobody, but not somebody either.
A smudged pair of spectacles,
Which mellow the sharpness of focus,
So you close your eyes
And feel the warmth of kindness
Transcendent, beyond people.
I sit across Girl-by-Durant on a bench (by Durant)
“Are you busy or do you have a minute?” she asks.
Is this an attempt to convert me to a religious cult? A competitive club?
Either is fair game —
But I’m always game for roulette.
“Sure,” I say.
As Girl-by-Durant sits beside me,
I see that it’s neither.
In need of honest advice,
She reads aloud a response she’s written for class
Her commentary on mothers and children
Woven and looped around stories of
Her mother and her mother’s child
Accounts that glide on the spring breeze
Into my ears — proxies
For those of an old friend
Though maybe in another life those ears and mine
Were one and the same.
Grab your ID, the bus is here!
It’s still moving so fast —
Tires kick up the dirt,
Smacking our cheeks
Remorseless and taunting.
We respond with two spiteful thumbs up
As we walk backward along the side of the road.
Dozens of cars dash by,
But one valiant Subaru stops.
It pulls off to greet us, car doors unlocked,
Its driver a smiley senior citizen.
She listens to our hasty answers
To questions she never asked.
When we’re finished blabbering
“I’m sorry about that. … Where are you going?”
Carried like pollen on a wool coat
Serendipity deposits us at our destination.
We try to catch one last glimpse of this generous Jane Doe
But she vanishes into the hillside —
Only the sweeping clouds above
Know her whereabouts now.
I look up hoping to catch the shimmer of a shiny sedan
In a dewy, cotton reflection
But all I can make out is sunshine and blue.
Anonymity wears many masks:
The faceless poster child of cautionary tales,
A weapon that conceals more than it unveils.
But a mask has edges
That mimic the shape of the one who wears it
Vague imprints that reveal
In little portions
A humanity we share.
I am the strangers I trust.
I know them as I know bits and fragments
More intimately than
the internet connection I chase
a cold stone seat on campus
a bus full of empty promises.
Every instant of shared humanity tangentially
Touches the timeline of my life but at one point alone,
And I notice that my universe has — even if just by an inch — grown,
Dissolving the rigid barriers that are all we’ve ever known.