I once wrote the line “we never pass the same strangers twice on the street”. Or something arranged like that. It probably sounded more profound. Especially with context. But it happened once. And it stuck with me through all these years and pops into my skull when I walk the four blocks from my bus stop to work. Brassy morning light all over everything. Sometimes rose gold. The river a wash of gray frosting. It’s a thing.
But it’s not true.
It sounds good, it sounds like something that should be in all capital letters, straight up and down, almost numeric in how tall and stiff they look. It should look and be spoken like a fact. But it’s not; that’s a lie. I know because I’ve proved it wrong more times than I care to enumerate – let’s pick an arbitrary number: 78.
I have a history with my strangers. That four blocks from 5th and Market to 8th and Main is peppered with the same silent faces blinking back at me, slicing up the path with me, standing shoulder-to-unknown-shoulder with me at a green light. We have no idea who we are. But we intersect our lives for a few seconds every day. I notice when they get haircuts. There might be a love story in here somewhere.
Either way, they belong to me and I can belong to them – if they care to claim me. The sidewalk is ours. This is universal. People being people is universal. It’s not profound, it’s just true. Comforting and true in the same way that a marshmallow could be. That’s an awkward metaphor. I won’t elaborate. But while in the halls of relevant writing about the comforts of human universality, we can do this too:
Touting her new book, The History of Us, bestselling author Leah Stewart will join the fine people at Carmichael’s Bookstore tonight, Thursday, January 17th for a special reading and signing starting at 7pm. There will probably be a fair amount of fresh strangers there.
Currently teaching in the creative writing program at the University of Cincinnati, Leah Steward is the author of three successful novels, including Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me and Body of a Girl. Her newest release, The History of Us, dives into the web of human relationships, exploring the aforementioned thread of universality found in the ever-shifting intricacies of friendship, family and love. We all have those.
Copies of The History of Us can be found on sale at both Carmichael's locations in hardcover for $24.99; paths can only be crossed with Stewart at the Frankfort Avenue store. It's got a lot of good sidewalk, there.
Someday it’s possible I’ll break the fourth wall that we all carry – some people call this a “personal bubble”, but it’s a wall; we all like to think it’s opaque and soundproof. Maybe someday I’ll throw some words at one of my strangers, open them up and humanize them and all that stuff. They might like it, get that universal comfort feeling in their stomach. And if it’s an especially fine day there on the sidewalk, I’ll tell them about how this moment I’m making with them is like a marshmallow.
Carmichael’s Bookstore has two area locations: 1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Avenue. For more information visit the event page, or call the Frankfort Avenue store at (502) 896-6950.
Image: Courtesy of Carmichael’s Bookstore website www.carmichaelsbookstore.com