Open Thread Highlights, Vol. 1:
Letters to Strangers

We have so much to say to the strangers in our lives! Baristas, security guards, panhandlers, trolls, and crushes. Here, highlights from Human Parts’ first open thread: Write a letter to someone you see nearly every day but have never spoken to.

Dear blind woman in Lafayette Park,

I see you every evening as I sit in what used to be my favorite part of the park because it’s where he and I would go together — that clearing at the top of the hill that overlooks the Broadway Street mansions where the specks of light from houses across the Bay flicker at dusk.

Last night, your husband was leading you along the path on his arm when halfway up, he stopped to pick a sprig of lavender. As he brought the bloom to your nose, your face illuminated with a smile that made your eyes wrinkle — like the uncontrollable kind that forms as you leave a lover’s house in the morning and remember the sweet words they said to you the night before. It amazed me that even though you weren’t able to see the beauty of what surrounded you, you could obviously still feel it.

In heartbreak, it is easy to feel hardened. But from you I am beginning to understand that the point of loss may not be what is taken away but the humble beauty of what remains. You know it and now I am starting to as well.


Though I’ve dreamt up a passionate affair between the two of us, I suspect it’s something different about you that attracts me. — Ryan

It is not uncommon to form rituals with strangers — but you and I have a look, a product of time reserved just for taking in impressions. I have by now garnered all sorts of ideas: you as well-read and liberal; as sharing a Bushwick one-bedroom with your boyfriend, or girlfriend (I haven’t decided which); as spending your Friday nights indoors deliberately, quietly. —Stef

You are grey. Your eyes look down. You’ve grown quiet. You’d rather be anywhere but here. Have you absorbed our collective miseries, one office worker after another slowly draining your joie de vivre, or is it something entirely unconnected with us? Can we help? — Alex

I’ve lived next to you for three years, 30 feet away, and yet I don’t even know your names and I’d be embarrassed if I were ever asked to identify you within a crowd. — Stella

I wonder where you got that awesome Star Wars t-shirt. I wonder why you yell at me sometimes, and I wonder if you recognize me at all. — Catie

Hello there, girl in the mirror. Yeah, I am talking to you. I see you every morning I drag my bum into the bathroom to brush my teeth staring back at me. Brush, brush, back and forth, front and back. That’s long enough. — Kellyn

The Coca-Cola and the snack bars I bought are still sealed because I never intended to buy them — I just wanted to see you. — Agus

The other day I saw you walking in town. You always wear the same expression; open, helpful. I don’t know what your life is like that you have to have so many jobs. I’m not even sure how old you are: you have a face that could be 15 or 35. As a writer I often find myself postulating about strangers’ private lives, but you remain a mystery to me. — Abby

Thank you for being a constant. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is to me. We’re all transients in this life. It’s rare that you know someone well enough that you recognize them. — Gary

I know that one of these mornings I should stop and ask your name, ask you how your morning is going, or ask you how you survive 10 hours each day in a glass box at the end of a dead end industrial street. — Kaleigh

Spotting you is sort of like spotting a socially-awkward Waldo. For the sake of my morning entertainment, I hope you never stop being exactly as you are. — Holden

Dear Mr Barista — I swiped right, why haven’t you?
Dear Labcoat-girl — We exchange smiles, but I saw you crying once. I wanted to give you a hug, but I’m a porcupine.
Dear harried-looking Businessman — I’ve often imagined detaching that phone off your ear. Can you stop screaming at your secretary while we order coffee?
Dear Janitor-lady — I’m sorry for walking on wet floors. You’ve worked here for decades and I want to know about that. Why did you leave Greece, were you a firebrand revolutionary? I love your smile and I wish we could talk in words rather than nods.
Dear Cafeteria-waitress — Who is the man in the polaroid on your counter? Does he deserve the shrine, does love really last?


You drink your coffee black and so do I. I think we could drink our coffee black alone together sometime. — DDL

We both look tired and sad every morning. My reasons are all but legit, most likely I’m just hungover. But you? I know you’re a hardworking person and I assume that you have a family to look after. Yet you managed to crack a smile for me. Thank you. I’m sorry that I take you for granted. — Max

Don’t you get hot? Don’t you get cold? It’s London. Aren’t you tired of getting wet? Why not take shelter under the bus top, or drink that giant cup of coffee you’re always sipping from while sitting inside Starbucks? — Vanessa

I think I’d like to wake up next to you, limbs tangled, the morning light spinning everything to gold. — Tonya

It was your tearful eyes that sealed my lips. It was the way that you held your coat to your nose and inhaled so deeply it made my thoughts stop. Maybe that coat was for you husband, I don’t know. — n a d a

I wanted to make sure you were okay. I wanted to know if you were only waiting for someone, or were really left all alone. — Dheeraj

One day, I decided to take your photograph. You asked me for ten bucks. There was no way I could take your picture for free, you said. I liked the way you said it: you were thereby declaring your humanity. The fact that you were not just a good shot. — Carrie

Dear friend at the bottom of Star Hill,

You were there the first time I rode my bike down the rough road, sipping coffee from a ceramic mug as you leaned against your minivan. Your sunglasses grazed your white eyebrows and half-covered your long, creased cheeks. The golden light of the California hills poured over you from between the trees, and I could tell you were thinking something both bright and heavy.

The road, seldom traveled by cars, was covered in leaves, and I know you heard the approach of my bike tires as I crunched downhill. But it was not until I turned the bike at the bottom and began the slow climb back up that you spoke.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” you asked, and I answered, “Just beautiful.”

I never expected to see you again. But when I came in search of beauty down the road a second time, crunching my way through a fog of leaves and grief into the golden light, you were there with your van, your mug, and your deep thoughtful expression. You didn’t speak that time, but you didn’t need to.


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