The Stranger's journey has now come full circle.
Join me in the bright sunshine at When Words Go Free...

There are still stories to be told.
Read them at The Stranger Looks Back.

Old Friends

From the moment we became friends, we were old friends. We had known each other in passing, then, a random encounter, a chance to talk, and we were old friends.

We remained old friends after the time that ended that night, when we both stood talking for hours, each waiting for the moment neither would allow, just because it would have been wrong. That time ended that night  because we knew we could not resist again. Or would not. So we stayed away, but stayed old friends.

We spoke on the phone recently, for three hours, longer than we have spoken in total in the four years since that night. It didn't take a minute to know that we were still old friends, it didn't take a second. We already knew.

We spoke briefly about that time (but not about that night). Able to look at it from here, we could talk about then. Then, we had talked about music, kids, other of our many common interests. Now, we talked about then, and about what we couldn't talk about then. Not because it wouldn't be wrong now. Because it doesn't matter. That was then.

We joked about how we might have been soulmates. We agreed that it could have been perfect. I gave her insight into then and now. She gave me insight into here and there. We talked about how things fit together, and why they didn't. We both knew when it was time to go. We didn't make plans to speak again. We just know we will.

Death of a Stranger

The stranger stumbled out onto the street, his cheek still stinging from the well-earned slap. The evening had not gone quite as well as he had hoped. It would get worse.

He wandered the dark streets, stopping occasionally to collect another bruise. He passed it off to his unfamiliarity with the town and its customs, but the truth was that he just wasn't as clever as he thought himself. Or maybe he was, but cleverness was no match for stealth.

As he walked away from yet another unfortunate encounter, a passing figure on the street pressed a paper into his hand. He looked at it. "No," he said, "this must end here." He crumpled the note and let it drop to the ground as he walked towards the edge of town. He left the buildings behind him and entered a wooded park.

After a time, he arrived at a clearing. There was a crowd. Trumpets blared. Swords were brandished. In the distance, a herd of wild horses rode by. The stranger knew this would not end well for him. As the dagger was withdrawn from his side, he fell. The crowd laughed.

As he lay on the ground, through the laughter he heard a voice. He was about to say something when he realized he knew those words. As his heart was about to beat its last, he found them in the recesses of his mind. With his last breath, he gave the answer. The crowd fell silent. Life flowed back into him. He stood up and walked away from the crowd, back towards the centre of town.

At The End Of The Rainbow

I told her once, not long after we separated, what I saw, and she saw it too. We cried, together. Whether that was because we believed it or because we didn't remains unclear. We never mentioned it again.

I still see it, sometimes. That same picture, almost as clear as the first time I saw it. There we are, as we once believed we were meant to be, sitting together, smiling, surrounded by our...

I try not to think about it too often. It saddens me that we will not share the journey that we each must take to get there, even though I know it cannot be any other way. We travelled together further than we probably should have, long past the point where we were only holding each other back. I know that we have to go our separate ways. I don't have to like it, but I will learn to.

As I do, it will fade, what I saw. It has to, or it will stop me from seeing anything else. In time, I will forget all about it. The thought of it will seem absurd, and the picture will bury itself somewhere deeper than I will be able to reach. Before that happens, I will look at it one more time, and remember those words she said to me so long ago, and wonder...

And then I will forget, and continue on my journey.

Then and Now

It was strange to see, after all this time. To see that place that he know so well, looking like that. The place itself looked the same. Sure, some tables had been moved around, the barmaid was new to him, but it was the same place, wasn't it? He recognized a couple of faces, but they didn't seem the same. It was clear that then was not now. What he noticed more were the ones who weren't there. If your presence doesn't make an impact, your absence won't make a difference. It did.

He wondered if that was just because he know these faces, and he didn't know those. Had he been there at a different time, would he miss the faces he didn't know now? He tried to look for counterparts. You know, you walk in to a bar you haven't been to in 20 years, and you see that guy. He's not the same that guy, but he's still that guy. Same people, different faces, like the daughter on 'Til Death.

He looked for types. You know, which of those people was "me", which was "him", which was "her". Didn't work. He thought maybe "we're" not types. Maybe types only work for people you don't really know, like that guy. Try as he might, he couldn't identify with those people, couldn't see himself fitting in there. He couldn't help but thinking that it was no accident that he showed up there when he did. That any other time he wouldn't have stayed. That those people just didn't interest him.

So he left.