Some say life resembles a highway. We travel so fast because we don’t want to live in the here and now, because we feel that the future is going to be better than we can imagine. We travel on a highway that’s slowly sinking under the horizon, with no maps, trying to get to a place we can’t be sure exists. On each side of this road, there are trees and endless fields – a barren wasteland melting under the sun or shivering beneath a silvery moon. We don’t have time to stop, we don’t have time to think.

At 100 miles per hour, you’re entire being collapses into a reflex.

The only way we can realize what’s going on is for us to crash into others. A painful process, in which there’s a lot of damage to be made, but a necessary one nonetheless.

As I look back into the past, my life so far seems to be uneventful. Taken as a whole, with the good and the bad, my life appears to lack any importance whatsoever. I missed on some great opportunities; I have made stupid excuses because I was afraid to take the leap or to make a certain sacrifice when it was required.

My father once said that the brave don’t have time to think about consequences. I suppose I’m not that brave.

Every once in a while, I try to make an inventory; I try to count all the meaningful events, to sift them from the mundane, from the reflexes and instincts of the twenty first century. Moments that define who I am and what I do, moments that will last for as long as I live. And, truth be told, I can only remember very few occasions in which life seemed to be profound and magnificent.

I do all this because I once read an article in a magazine about this ancient tribe. They had the custom of keeping count of the days of happiness in their lives.

But is it that important? It seems to me that entire years of our lives slowly disintegrate into funny stories we tell over dinner. Finally, they become just a few phrases, in such a way that you can summarize twenty years of your life in a rapid succession of simple sentences.

In the end, all you have left are a few blank pages. Life’s just like writing on a blackboard, and someone is walking behind you, erasing everything as you write. We accumulate so much, yet when we leave this world, we own nothing.

The cynics might even say we never own anything.

What do we really want? What do we desire most in the world?

Sometimes I ask myself this question. What is my purpose? What’s the one thing I want most in the world?

It seems to me that we spend most of our lives trying to figure out who we are. What makes us unique, what we love doing most in the world. After we find that, we spend what’s left searching for someone who can love us for who we really are. And at times we’re afraid that we will never be who we’ve always wanted to be, we’re terrified that we’ll never find that one person… real love.

It pains me to write down the words, but I never found what I was looking for. Even when I was a kid in high school; math was too hard, physics seemed useless, history was too boring. The chemistry professor smelled funny.

What I did have, ever since I was twenty, was Caroline. She was mine, but she wasn’t. She never left, but she never stayed either.

I’m not sure if you can ever own another. If so, I never owned her. But I never lost her either. We were less than friends. If I had a problem, if I wanted to speak to someone, I wouldn’t go to her. Our conversations were long and stupid. We laughed a lot. We made fun of each other.

And then we would stop going out or seeing each other for a few months, maybe even as long as an year or two. Without any reason. Then we would meet by accident, on the street or in a bus, exchange numbers again. And the circle resumed.

I was proud just to be around her. You know, this arrogant, childish pride that people would see me with a beautiful woman.

You see, I learned one thing. Women fall into two categories. First there are the mothers. Women of conventional beauty, both inner and outer, who during their lives attain a certain solemn grace. They’re not adventurous and can be easily understood or satisfied. They hold few secrets and that’s why these women appeal to men who want to settle down.  Hence their name. They make love, take care of everyone who needs taking care of, grow old, and die. Their conservative nature is owed to their maternal character. They are mothers and that’s what they do best.

Then there’s the other category, the one we hate and love at the same time, and it seems to me that we can only truly love, in the hallucinating sense of the word, the women who fall into this second category. They’re mysterious and beautiful in a way that makes heartbeats furiously irregular, they’re suave and gentle and they hold an almost supernatural power. You can compare them to a flame if you want. They burn for a few moments and then there’s nothing but ash left. These women are the muses of artists, the goddesses that prove how chaotic and unfair life is. No man can forget such a woman and no man can ever love the same after he has met one.

That was Caroline. A fire that burned so bright you needed a lot of courage just to get close to her. You could feel she was different.

Every few weeks, we’d go to a church and see a wedding ceremony. Two strangers living their happiest moment. That’s what she’d say. We didn’t know anything about them, just the fact that they were, in that moment, happy. She always made up stories about these strangers. Why they married, how they had met.

It was as if we were putting our lives on hold, to witness something much, much greater than we could ever hope to achieve. In a way, we were as lonely as we would ever be, inside that church, seeing happiness shine bright inside someone else’s eyes. I know I felt that way, and I’m sure Caroline felt the same.

She was always a stranger to me. A stranger to everyone, I suppose. Maybe she was a stranger to herself. She always talked about figuring out who she was, and it felt as if she had embarked on a long quest to discover who she really was. Or invent that self she had always dreamed.

Caroline wanted to be everyone and no one at the same time; you could see it in her eyes. All her dreams glittering wild.


2 thoughts on “Strangers

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