The Stranger

The palm trees swayed in the salty sea air, the sea birds cried out over the waves and the calm cacophony of the ocean was rhythmically soothing to their ears. They lay there, two lovers entwined on the pure sandy beach; both oblivious to the threat of the sun or invasion of their privacy. The man held on to his woman with a natural ease of someone who had loved her for years. The couple lay tranquilly on the beach underneath the protection of a great banana tree. There didn’t appear to be any other human life on the island nor was there any hint of civilization. The couple was lying in their bathing suits yet there were no signs of their shelter or survival. Though this lack of survival should worry any outsider, by looking at the content smiles they wore in their sleep that was enough to know these two were not concerned with any of that.

Giselle could only wonder who these people were as she looked down upon them. Her curiosity got the better of her and she zoomed in for closer analysis. The man looked like he was tall, auburn hair, caramel skin complexion, athletic, and had a distinguishing tattoo of a raven on his left forearm. The woman was about four inches shorter than he was, with long wavy chestnut hair, and a curvy thin physique that was much like her own. She found that slightly disturbing at first, the concept of her looking down at herself with a strange man on the beach. Who was this man? She had never seen before in her life. She was apparently very comfortable with him, could this picture be a glimpse of the future with her other half? Upon the completion of that thought Giselle woke up.

It was twenty minutes before her alarm was going to ring. Normally Giselle would just do what any average normal person would do and roll over but not this morning. She couldn’t get that mysterious stranger out of her head. In fact, it wouldn’t be far off for her to admit that she was in love with this individual, this mysterious dream man. Oh what a man he was, she thought. She could still picture every detail of his body as if she had just studied a picture of him. She allowed herself to fantasize about him, who she decided to name Joseph. Where are you Joseph? She thought. She was deep in thought about the possibilities of his location when the alarm rang out half startling her. It was really time for her to get up now. Giselle knew it would be ridiculous to sit there and contemplate what life with Joseph would entail and miss going to work. Not that she had a fabulous job or anything.

Every day it was the same old routine. Giselle woke up, got ready, grabbed some coffee, took the subway to work, and spent the day sorting mail in the mail room of a rather dull office building. Here she was, fresh out of college doomed to waste away in this dungeon delivering parcels and letters to people she envied that all seemed to have their lives together. “They” were the successful ones who had the same education that she did yet unlike her “they” knew someone that knew someone, that had a father who owned a large corporation and now “they” were important, working their way to the top of the ladder. “They” were the ones she saw every day, who’s names she knew, faces she remember, lives she fantasized  about and were also “they” who wouldn’t know her from a fly on the wall. She called it, the life of the invisible.

So she began this day like any other. She turned her alarm off, swung her legs off of the bed and proceeded to the bathroom of her very small apartment which she shared with her friend from college. She turned on the shower to let the water heat up as she washed her face and brushed her teeth. Then she hopped in the shower to wash away the sleep. Strangely, Giselle could only think of Joseph. She pictured them laughing together, walking down the street holding hands, and cuddling on the couch as they watched a movie. How could someone who was so real to her be just a figment of her imagination? She thought. The yearning of passion she felt within her heart, was that enough to know that somewhere in this world he was out there. Could there be a possibility that he was there with her in the dream also examining the scene on the beach? What if nothing was random and by some freak event in nature the two of them, Giselle and Joseph, met each other together in the same dream at the same time . . . if that was the case, would they ever meet in real life? Giselle thoughts were going a hundred miles an hour, theorizing all the ways and reasons why she felt so in love with someone who could honestly be a figment of her imagination. How would she even begin to search for someone she doesn’t know really exists?

Giselle realized she spent longer in the shower than usual meaning that if she still was to get coffee that morning she would be late. She sighed thinking about the unnaturally loud chastising she’d get from her supervisor Pam, who thought she was superior to everyone else just because she had worked there for twenty some odd years. So she would have to skip the java and go straight to work. Giselle didn’t have one of those caffeine addictions like some other people but there was nothing like the smell of the hot joe in the morning to bring a smile to her face. She toweled herself off, ran a comb through her hair, put it in a bun, and put on the clothes she had laid out the night before.

The subway was always an interesting place to be in the morning with the hustle of people coming and going; random people, weird people, and people from all walks of life converging in a common area with a common need and goal to get from point A to point B. It had always fascinated her to observe the people on her commute and invent stories about them. The older gentleman in the suit that was married with a couple of kids, on his way to his office, texting his mistress about plans later, and thinking about what he could possibly be doing later when he will lie to his wife about how he has to “work late again”. Then there was the art student whose appearance was an art form in itself and who probably wanted the world to think about how unique and different they were from the regular norms. Then there was the man who at one time had the world in his hands. He was the man who had it all; the family, the home, the job, and the money. Yet in a sudden twist of fate he sat alone now in the subway with nothing but the clothes on his back and a bag that had all the belongings he had in the world. Giselle was just another face in the anonymous sea of people.

This was just another morning commute, though this morning in particular Giselle found herself scanning the faces. Studying the random and the anonymous for just a hope that she would see Joseph somewhere in the crowd, which she knew was like finding a drop of blood in the ocean. She couldn’t fight the urge to yearn for just a chance encounter with this man, who in the span of a night had become the object of all her affections. She got her token and proceeded to the platform of the same train she took every morning. Giselle soon felt the heaviness of defeat setting in. Her heart was sinking as she scanned left and right, with each glance further bringing her down more and more. Her train arrived shortly and she got on. Her ride to work would take her about twenty minutes and she knew she would spend every second of that time feeling nostalgia about her imaginary moment on the beach.

Giselle was just beginning to accept the defeat when something told her to look out the window. They were stopped momentarily for the random shuffle of people getting on and off. She scanned the platform and there he was. Joseph. He was there standing on the platform with his headphones on texting on his blackberry. He was wearing slacks and a button up which she knew hid that Raven tattoo that was expertly displayed on his forearm. Giselle immediately began to imagine what his life was like. Here he was on a Tuesday morning in slacks which meant he was probably not an art student nor was he a man who had lost everything. He had an ease and charisma about him which she assumed meant he was not the sort to stress over major business deals. She noticed that he had a bag slung over his shoulder that probably held a laptop and maybe a book or two. She imagined he was a law student on his way to class. Impulsively she stood up. She knew she had to go talk to him, meet him, and just be with him. Giselle knew it was completely irrational but she didn’t care. She loved him. He completed her. He would understand. He had to . . . Her eyes were focused on him as she tried to fight her way to the door. He, “Joseph”, finished his text and just before he was about to look up, a woman bounced up beside him. His face lit up and he smiled at her familiarly as they exchanged a quick hug and kiss. Giselle stopped in her tracks. She watched him. Her body was utterly frozen. She couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and she couldn’t even breathe. The door closed signaling the moment of departure. Her eyes couldn’t leave him as they began to speed away to the next stop. Giselle didn’t know why but intuitively she knew that glimpse of Joseph would be the only time she would ever see him.

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