Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stranger's Stories in Manhattan

White hair.  Gentle eyes.  Blue veins snake beneath porcelain skin. 

What was it like, the world, in 1934?

Dreadlocks.  Beaded bracelet.  Orange pants swoon skinny legs.

Who is your inspiration?

Slick hair.  Eastern European.  Fingers punch Blackberry keyboard. 

What is your native tongue?

Eight million Manhattanites.  Eight million people to watch.  Eight million people I want to know.

I ask strangers questions.  They speak to me.  Their life is myriad stories.  I am from Switzerland, Chicago, Ghana, Thailand, Brooklyn.  I work for the government.  I toss pizza in the East Village.  I'm a journalist.  I'm unemployed.  New York City is a thief: she steals my money.  Good restaurants?  I know none.  I always eat at home.  My friends are gone for the weekend.  My family lives in South Africa.  I feel so alone.  

Not all their words are verbal.  Sometimes, I read their messages on torn, cardboard signs.  Homeless.  Anything helps!  Lost my job.  Iraq Vet.  Fat people need food too.  Seeking caring girlfriend. 

Our conversations are physical too.  A smile.  A sigh.  Shifting seats on the subway.  Our eyes meet.  Brown.  Jade.  Aqua.  We don't know what to say, but silence is a conversation.  I stare at him, at her, at them.  I am curious.  Today, tomorrow, I will always want to know.  Share your story with me.  And I, I , will tell you mine. 

Jenneke Oostman, Travel + Leisure Editorial Intern

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