Handsome Stranger

He was beautiful. But I was drawn to his presence. He was self-possessed but cool, confident but in a relaxed way. He wore gray knit shorts, flip flops, and a light blue t-shirt, but he was clearly put together. His hair was thick and dark, tinted auburn from the sun, with neatly trimmed scruff. His features were dark, aloof, and inviting. He was fit but not overly muscular. The cake was how he noticed his surroundings but focused on his reading and coffee. I snuck a peak at his book, something in French. I swooned.

I stopped myself, “Am I attracted t him, or do I want to be him?”  Maybe I just liked what seemed exotic, the allure of the opposite: his dark to my pale, his casual confidence to my constant inner questioning.

My eyes followed him as he left the coffee shop. He took a right and rounded the corner, walking past the large open window where I sat. Would he glance or smile? Or would he pass by, impervious to my interest?

He did indeed look my way and then veered in my direction with a grin. My heart leapt, until I realized he was stopping to say hello to friends at the table next to mine. His voice was warm and clear, friendly but firm, and not overly deep like so many men do to overcompensate. He congratulated a happy couple who is newly pregnant, and then went on his way, French novel and my fascination tucked under his arm.

I’m attracted to men all the time based on how they look or act. This was different. I was drawn to this guy’s sense of self and how he carried it. Clearly I am projecting onto a stranger what I wrestle within myself. “Who am I?” I wonder. And could I own myself, the way he does?

I have this hollow space carved out inside. There I turn ideas over and over, thinking and feeling my way through them. What sometimes is curiosity, is at other times insecurity. That inner question mark allows me to plumb the depths of a conversation or quandary. It can also make me ill at ease and lead me to gravitate toward those who are more self assured.

It’s like there’s an interior longing that turns round and round in the hollow. I can savor experiences and encounters, like the one today, lingering over reflection about identity and attraction. The trick seems to be easing up when the turning becomes churning.

I left the coffee shop this afternoon wondering if I’d see this guy again (probably not, seems straight). More importantly, I wondered what the sudden pang of self-reflection means. For awhile, I was kind of ‘praying’ that I’d one day be more at ease and confident, the way the handsome stranger was. Then I realized this hollowed out question mark is a part of me, both good and challenging, life-giving and distressing. And the ache I felt, was just the desire to share that part with others, friends and lovers alike. Deep calling to deep.

God, what a torrent of thinking came from a chance afternoon coffee. I can hear friends telling me to lighten up. But that’s the ocean within the hollow, the rush of emotion over the everyday experience. That is part of who I am, not be thrown away.

Fearfully and wonderfully made, huh? I doubt that sometimes. But then, sometimes I take the risk of believing it, and letting it become true.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know full well.”
–Psalm 139