City Walk with a Stranger - San Francisco Story # 2, a short story by crankyvic. Date added: 2011-12-06. Times viewed: 828.
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- Intro: San Francisco street scene, seduction, love lost, yearning of unknown, connection with others, loneliness, closure
I was late. I knew that, but I had a presentation to finish at work. I knew it usually clocked 15 minutes, door to door, from my office to the Sports Club LA / San Francisco on Market between 3rd and 4th, and it was already 5:22 when I left my office building on 405 Howard. It's already getting dark. As I crossed 1st and onto Mission, I noted a man joining me. He must have come out of one of the buildings on Mission. He appeared to be having a foot race with me. I was on my headset, listening to German dance music, and he was in a gray suit, tall, lean, with cute face, and was walking rather fast, as he was trying to keep up with me. I turned my head to get a good look at him; he smiled. I didn't recognize him. So I nodded my head and kept on pressing on.
It appeared though he was rather enjoying this. At first he passed me, and then I caught on, and this went on for a while, until we both caught on an even pace. He kept his briefcase on one hand, and the other arm free. He was clearly determined to stay about 2 feet away from me, on my right, but close enough that I thought he was borderline impinging into my space. It would appear to others that we were walking together. I occasionally looked to my right, casually, pretending that I was just admiring the buildings or a store front, then I would find this tall, lean man in gray suit, while he was looking forward, I could swear that I caught a glimpse of smile from the side.
The race was on. I kept on pressing forward, and making calculated decisions as to how to best optimize my route to get to the gym not too late past my 5:30 appointment with my private trainer. During those tricky interactions where the lights could turn, or not turn, he would stop and watch me, as if he was waiting for me to make a move so that he could follow.
On New Montgomery and Mission intersection, we both paused and tried to figure out if we should cross. At that moment, I noticed his wedding band. He noticed mine as well. He smiled. I looked away. This was new to me. This unsettled me a little. The iPod was playing Computerliebe, my favorite song at the moment. So I played with my iPod nano and shuffled the music while waiting for the light to turn and while my mind wondered. He took off his jacket. I saw a pressed dress shirt with a bright colored tie. He must be getting hot and knew that if he needed to keep up with me, it's time to get rid of excess clothing. I kept on walking, ignoring the fact that he's now only about 6 inch away to my right. To outsiders it would appear that he was walking with me, towards one common destination. There were some tourists in front of us, lingering, trying to figure out which way to go, (I’ve decided that we became an unit half way during this foot race), they appeared to be loitering in front of a structure, and trying to figure out which restaurant they might want to eat at. He stepped to the side purposely, so that I could cross the narrow walkway first, pass these confusing tourists, and then he followed me.
This went on for the rest of the foot race, which had, at some point, turned a bit ambiguous. It was as if he wanted to say something, to comment on something, to strike a conversation, but he just never did.
We would look well suited for each other: both in work attire, both walking fiercely fast, both had a destination that was waiting for us. And if I may be so bold, we even looked good together. I became curious, so I looked to the right, to this strange man, and he smiled again, behind his rim glasses, and he nodded at me. I wondered who he was; I would have remembered his face. He would be considered traditional handsome Anglo-Saxon type, likely worked in financial services or consulting firms, judging by his attire.
I continued to press on. He continued to accompany me, navigating now busy, slightly uphill road towards Market Street. We both turned right on 3rd. He was holding his suit jacket, and I felt that he had admitted his defeat: to keep up with me, he would have to take off his suit jacket and walk briskly to catch up with a woman who’s only 5 foot 1. We shared this route from 1st and Mission to 3rd and Mission. It was close to Market now. He stopped in front of a bar. I found myself stopping, almost startled with his sudden stop, I had for some reason half expected him to follow me, all the way to the gym. But he stopped. He took one look at me, and it almost as if he had something to say, then he stopped what he was about to say, and smiled. One moment later, he stepped into the bar, with one last look at me as he entered the abyss.
I had no time to waste. I now turned to the left onto Market. I was late by 2 minutes. It was as if for that brief 10 minutes, so much and so little just happened.
We all yearn for that connection: the connection with one another. The connection of random strangers who might be, in an alternative universe, your mate, your best friend, your causal buddy whom you like to have a drink with and talk about poems, or whatever it is that you like to do.
But most often, we have that glimpse into the unknown; we are caught by a different timeline, separated by different life paths, and stopped by that damn thing called reality. We may have a momentary elapse, we pause to dream, we ask ourselves - "what it would be like to…", and then our current life seem to catch on with us, at that precise moment, whatever persistent longing, yearning, or unresolved feelings, just get swept away. You suppress it, and you move on to the predictable, the reality.
And sometimes, you are left with emptiness and loneness. A sense of loss, a sense of doubt and a sense of longing. It’s more transcendent when you are traveling. I imagine when you are moving about, in big cities, small cities, an airport, a hotel, or anywhere in between, this feeling of being alone, not necessarily loneliness, is more prominent. You may wonder about those misses in life. People who could have been perfect for you, people who could be your partner but somehow life detours and you never get to find out the what-ifs, and the path you’ve chosen.
The closure is the most difficult piece to grasp. You may be convinced that you have the closure, but then one day it just pops right back, and you are suddenly caught with a new wave of desire, uncertainty, craving, ache, and absolute obsession, and in some cases, you turn into that insecure person that you were once before, some decade ago, and the yearning grabs hold of you and you are once again lost in time.
These feelings are a lot like low tides; those emotions are washed away along with all the loitered objects on shore, like a piece of driftwood, or a plastic bottle.
You look at the ocean, when it's low tides, when the beach is calm, and you wonder if this lonely, temperamental ocean with furious waves, ever even existed; and if they did, would they ever come back carrying those objects back to shore, those objects that were once upon abandoned with so little care to begin with, and lost in sea?
I don’t think you will be certain about the answer. So often you are just left with melancholy, unsatisfied. And you wonder about the loss and the longing, the possibilities, and you know deep inside, that feeling never really goes away.
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