Conversation with My Favorite Stranger


Photo by Korney Violin

“Don’t knock where you came from.” That is what you told me when we held our first conversation. You did not seem to comprehend that I do not belong to any specific place. I do not regard any place as ‘home’. And often I have thought, when I die, where will I be buried? That decision always seems to be important because the final resting place tells the ultimate story of the individual that is resting. I do not belong. I do not belong in the ‘slums’ of the Bronx. With the Puerto Riqueños smacking Dominoes against the surface of an old folding table, under the orange summer sky. A horde of bodies, drenched in glistening June sweat, encompassing the players and cheering on the guy next to me. He always wins and they know it. I do not belong at my birth place. I commute to Manhattan, at least four times a week, in fact, that is where you and I met. The incessant urgency is a constant loop there. The woman with the pleated skirt and matching blue-black blazer across the street. She struggles to make the light, on her way to work, I suppose. A tall, averagely built man next to me, juggles a toddler on his arms and three bags of groceries. He shouts after his oldest, elementary leveled darting by on his scooter. An innocent youth, ignoring and bypassing pedestrians, not a worry in his head. Three men in business attire stroll past, all with their morning coffees in hand. The potent smell of coffee beans threaten to overpower the city smell of asphalt and gas. It is evident that, here, I am just a mere observer. An outsider, wishing to have been as privileged as those around me. Those who live in a city that a majority of New York could only wish to afford. Ultimately, this is not my place. It is barely anyone else’s. My motherland would have been an option but I was not born there. I am barely at one with my mother tongue. I am not familiar with the roads or street names. I do not know the name of my next door neighbor. The one right beside my family’s home. The one who joins us, on my summer visits, at the basketball court on the park below. The one who enjoys a heaping helping of Helado Bon with us. A delicacy that few are privileged to eat on that side of town. I am an outsider there as well. I can imagine that you had been given the opportunity to consider one place as a home. A place that you can familiarize yourself with. The roads, rivers, parks. With your eyes closed you can trace every outline of every place you have been to. Even from when you were just a child. Out of memory, you connect with every detail of the community you grew within. The community that molded you into the man you are today. I, on the other hand, have been everywhere. So you see, when I die, I want my ashes scattered in the midst of various oceans. I may not belong to one place but I can still belong everywhere. Everywhere is where I will remain.


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