Writing Prompt: Talk to a Stranger
Earlier this week I was walking my dog when I crossed paths with a stranger on the sidewalk. It was one of those (awkward) moments when my dog was really determined to sniff a particular parcel of grass so I was standing stiff as the man approached me head on. Here’s what happened next:
At first, I thought he was bald but as he came closer I realized his blond hair was cropped very short. His freckles creeped all the way across the top of his head. Although his clothes were clean and neat, they looked well-worn and possible picked up from the Goodwill a few blocks away.
“Shitzu?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“She is thirteen years old,” I said proudly.
“Thirteen, really?” he said. “I would have guessed five or six.”
My dog, Ginger, deciding the new human was more interesting that particular parcel of grass, approached the man.
“May I pet her?” he squatted, revealing a shabby military surplus backpack slung over his shoulders as he held out the back of his hand to my 13-year-old dog I still consider a puppy.
“Uh, of course,” I mumbled, not immediately comprehending what he had asked.
My dog has never had much interest in strangers and even less in other dogs. When we pass neighborhood dogs on our walks, their owners reeling in their leashes as the dogs bark, growl and buck on their back legs trying to get a sniff of Ginger, she gives them a quick look of curiosity and continues walking forward. So after a quick sniff of this stranger’s hand, she continues walking down the sidewalk. The man stands as I begin to follow my leash.
“Have an excellent day,” he waves an open palm at waist height.
And that was that. But what if it wasn’t? What if my dog had instantly fallen in love with this guy and stayed to let him pet her? What would he have said next? What would I? Maybe we had a mutual friend or worked in different departments of the same large company. What if we discovered we lived on the same street and he invited me to a neighborhood BBQ he was having next week? The possibilities were endless and it made my mind spin like a child’s imagination when playing with an unlimited amount of Legos.
So, here is the writing prompt:Think of an interaction you had with a stranger (or keep this in mind for the next time you do) and continue the conversation beyond the point that it ended.
So here is what could have happened, backing up before the goodbye…
“She’s beautiful,” he said.
“Do you live around here?” Ginger leaned into his hand, digging deep below her ear.
“Yes,” I said, almost saying the specific street but deciding against it, “do you?”
“Not really,” he said. “I live a couple miles away but got off the bus early to walk. The bus was stuffy.”
“Mmm, I agree its too beautiful a day to waste.”
He looked up at me from his squatting position—I couldn’t believe my dog was staying with him so long—she rarely lets me scratch her ears this long. His smile was quiet and genuine, showing no teeth. “I’m Jamison,” he said, standing up.
“Weird,” I smiled as I shook his hand, “I’m Tequila.”
After such a quiet smile, his laugh was louder than I expected. It was one of those rare laughs that you only come across a handful of times in your life, the type of laugh that makes everyone within earshot smile and everyone in on the conversation laugh along. And I did.
“In that case, I was thinking about stopping at El Loro on my way home, care to join me for a happy hour margarita, Tequila?”
I laughed again at his casual use of my made-up name.
“I actually have someone waiting for me at home.”
“Ahh, of course. You’re too beautiful and funny to be single.” Normally a comment like that from a stranger would have me running in the other direction, but the way he said it was so cool, and casual. It was not a threat, not even a flirt, but simply a compliment, and he did not pause before he continued, “And in that case, I’m having a get-together at my house on Thursday. Just a few friends and neighbors grilling in my backyard. You and your boyfriend should come, and bring this little girl as well,” he said, reaching down and giving Ginger one last scratch behind the ear. She was ready to go now, pulling on the leash I kept short.
“Oh, well, I can ask my boyfriend if he’s free that night.”
“Perfect,” Jamison said, “I’ll give you my address.” He pulled a small notebook and pen out of the cargo pocket on his shorts and scribbled down his address.
“Thanks,” I said, taking the paper he ripped from the notebook.
“Come anytime after six. I promise it will be really casual—bring drinks if you like—and a big enough crowd not to feel like an outsider. Maybe 30 people.”
“Okay.” I pocketed the paper. “Ready to go, Ginger?” and she galloped forward as I let the leash out. “Nice to meet you.”
“And you as well.”
And we both walked our separate ways, both wondering if we’d see each other on Thursday, or ever again.