Strangers are People

1989.

Tall like trees. Bodies danced at the margins of my world, filling the jungle with movement and life.
My mother strolled ahead. I was two at the time. We were in Saint Luis Obisbo California. My father was in the middle of a six month naval cruise somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Operation Desert Storm was underway.  Patty, my mothers best childhood friend, was visiting our new family from the east coast. They wandered through the public promenade and admired the Californian city scape while they caught up on life’s new details. My sister Jaclyn was strapped tightly to a toddler rook, hanging like a swollen sack from my mothers back. Her little arms protruded out to the sides and her tiny fingers grasped at the passing air. My mother latched onto my hand like a leash and led the way through the thicket of legs and knees that shuffled along the sidewalk. I stared at my shoes. My laces lashed back and forth as I toddled to keep pace. Gum smeared the cement. I looked up: the world was tall.

Suddenly there was a pause. I watched their lips move in parley as their eyes surveyed the storefronts for a potential lunch spot. I jerked my hand away: I wanted freedom. I stared at my flopping laces and continued walking without thought to where I was going.
“Michael!” My mother called me; her voice was piqued with concern. “Get back here Michael. You need to stand near me. There are strangers here.”
I looked up and found her eyes peering at me. Bodies bustled about. Conversations echoed near and far. On nearby benches sat individuals, some propped and alert, others slumped and sluggish, all with a distant look in their eyes; their minds absorbed in contemplation.
“There are no strangers here. There are only people.”
I looked at her curiously, blinking. A smile warmed her face.
“You’re right Michael. There are no strangers. There are only people.”