Rendered Fat Content


I should be no stranger to being the stranger by now. I’ve spent much of my life shuttling between here and there, sometimes including somewhere else entirely. My normal state seems surrounded by strangers which I suppose qualifies me as a stranger in even most of my neighbors’ eyes. Curiously, it doesn’t feel terribly strange to me to feel like a stranger.

The first twenty or so years of my life was just the opposite, I knew many of the people I came in contact with, and they knew me. This might have been simply the result of growing up in a small city, living in the same house in the same neighborhood, never having to change schools. Understandably, I calibrated myself to recognize this state as normal, and that it must be somehow strange to be a stranger. That innocent level setting guaranteed that my next four decades would find me in exile, displaced, a stranger to almost everyone around me.

I could, I suppose, be more personable. I know some who never leave any place a stranger. Outgoing, they connect with almost everyone they meet, while I’m almost the opposite. Sure, I can and do work a room on occasion, but I usually manage, without even trying, to pass through a place without ruffling the curtains. I might be invisible to almost everyone. Sometimes to me, too.

If it’s really not terribly unusual to be a stranger, it still feels alienating to me. I cannot imagine instant ease, and carry an edgy uncertainty with me always: a wariness, unblinking eyes in the back of my head. I suppose this countenance at least serves to keep me alert, more or less awake, present in a curiously invisible kind of way.

I take some solace in recognizing that being a stranger works both ways, and in every room I enter, I will be outnumbered by strangers even stranger than me. I am pretty certainly always surrounded by them, and always will be. This phenomenon should reassure me that I am not nearly, not half-nearly as strange as this stranger feels and has always felt in this disorienting adult world. I guess familiarity might be an artifact of childhood—like security and a deep sense of place—meant to condition one for the dusty distances to be traversed later in life. No path leads back to there, though most of us strangers still call that place home.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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