7:03 AM. Desperately, I reach for my phone trying to rid my ears of the terrible wailing that is my alarm. Eyes still closed, I curse the day and the start of yet another week. 7:19 AM. Emerging from the shower, I open my eyes for the first time and acknowledge my roommates presence with a simple head nod. It is far too early for words, let alone conversation and as I head back to my room I nearly trip over a pair of heels left on the floor from the previous Friday night out on the town. "UGH! I should've cleaned my room yesterday" I think as I scold myself and try to figure out what exactly I did with my weekend. 7:42 AM. "Coffee's ready" I hear from the other room and as I head to the kitchen I catch a glimpse of the sun rising over the the bare trees on our street. 7:51 AM. Finishing my cereal, I wave goodbye to my roommate as she heads out the door for work, "have a good day" she yells as the door closes behind her. 7:58 AM. Gathering my things and slipping on my shoes, I am just about out the door myself, until I realize my car keys are missing from my purse. Running back inside, I frantically scan my room only to find the missing sons of bitches on the floor under my nightstand of all places.
8:01 AM. Locking the door behind me I shove my lunch into my purse and when I look up my heart skips a beat. Catching my breath for a second I stare straight ahead, there he is. It is a rare occurrence to see him in the mornings. Walking down Hooker Street in his black peacoat, hair perfectly groomed and dark sunglasses which hide his mysterious eyes. "Hey" I say quietly forcing myself to maintain eye contact as I briefly pass him on the sidewalk. "Good morning" he replies with a smile as he continues on down the street. Bee-lining for my car, I am breathing heavily and my fingers may or may not be trembling as I dial my roommates number. "What did I forget today?" she asks as she picks up her phone. "I saw him" I say quickly, cutting her off. "What?! No way you are so lucky!" she whines, and as we converse about what he was wearing, how he looked and the words that were exchanged, I pull off of Hooker street and catch one last glimpse of him as he boards the city bus, briefcase in hand.
He was first discovered about a month after we moved into our house in Denver. My roommate was leaving for work at the exact moment that he was passing by. They exchanged short greetings and after she got into her car I immediately received a phone call, which seems to be the trend for us whenever he is spotted. After many weeks playing the guessing game about his career, his marital status and the exact location of his house, we decided to name him. It was a crisp fall day and we were walking home from picking up a loaf of bread at our local bakery when the subject of him came up. "What do you think his name is?" she asked as we turned the corner onto our block. Ten minutes and a whole lot of terrible ideas later, we settled on Jackson. Jack for short.
Since that initial first encounter he had with my roommate, the Jack run-ins have occurred five or six times, mostly in the mornings at almost exactly 8 AM (which actually works really well as inspiration to get out the door on time daily), but once I swear, I saw him in all his glory walking home from the bus stop shortly before 6 PM on a Wednesday.
"What do you think he thinks of us?" I asked my roommate the other night over dinner. "Do you think he wonders about our lives, the status of our relationships and guesses what our names could possibly be? I wonder if he thinks my name is something awful like Trudence?" Later that night as I was lying in bed Jack somehow made his way into my thoughts. I began pondering strangers and how many people you encounter daily that you really truly know nothing about. I thought of the mechanic who fixed my tail light and the woman I spoke with on the phone for thirty minutes regarding our cable bill, realizing that a great deal of our daily life is spent talking to, looking at and sitting next to strangers.
Take for example sitting next to someone on an airplane. On a recent flight to San Diego my roommate and I watched in disbelief as two complete strangers sitting in front of us engaged in not only small talk, but deep, raw and real conversation that ultimately led to the exchange of phone numbers at the end of our flight and what we are certain has become a "happily ever after story", all starting with two strangers in row 11 on flight number 608. On the other hand however, I remember junior year of high school and the stranger that I passed daily in the hallways between second and third period. He was new to the school, a transplant from Canada who was hired to play for the minor league hockey team in town and somehow sent by some evil force to absolutely torture me (or at least I like to believe so). I mean, I was in like, lust and love all at the same time and I didn't even know the first thing about him. He was my "perfect stranger", but being the naive teenager I was, I couldn't be happy leaving it at just that. After months of working my way into his social scene, sneaking out to too many late night hockey parties with my best friend and finally getting the chance to talk to him, to ask all the questions that I had been dying to have answered, I realized... he was terrible. He was dumb and miserable. An absolute jerk and someone I would not want to spend my any of my time with, let alone the rest of my life as I had so often dreamt about when he was still mysterious and unknown.
And thus, the beauty and the beast in getting to know a stranger, sometimes they can turn into your prince charming, your best friend or your greatest teacher. Yet other times you can be left empty, disappointed and feeling like the worst judge of character in the world. Hence the reason after much thought and internal debate, I have ultimately decided to keep Jack a stranger, the most perfect stranger. His mystery gives me something to contemplate, to get excited about and to look forward to on cold Monday mornings at 8AM. And as my roommate and I continue to wonder how long he rides the bus each morning before he reaches his stop, who if anyone he is going home to, and of course (though we find the one we came up with extremely fitting), what his real name is, we can only hope that he is wondering the same things about the two brunette girls living in the white house on Hooker Street.