Stranger at the Crossroads


An upcoming presidential election invariably has the potential to channelize your conversation centering around the candidates especially when the stakes are high for your favorite contestant. You may be equally interested in discussing a star’s flamboyant lifestyle, providing grist for the gossip mills. In spite of not knowing any of these individuals personally, their prominence in the political or the glamor world makes the difference. It is however very rare, when a human entity appearing out of the blue in a crowded street dominates your conversation for several successive weeks and makes you craft a fictional tale, colorful and crazy!

This story unfolds in a rather unconventional way. At a four-way intersection on the way to my gym stood a guy about 5 feet and 7 inches tall every evening. A six-minute ride in regular traffic takes us close to fifteen minutes in peak hours. Yet we prefer going for our workouts at that time because the gym is less crowded. Since the cars move at a snail’s pace, there is ample time to look around and observe the pedestrians on the sidewalks. Unlike the other passersby who hardly attract our attention, our hero triggered our interest because he stood at the same spot and at the same time all 5 days of the week, waiting to cross the road.

We started referring to him as the software engineer, calling him SE for short. His profession was a wild guess with no logic behind it. But for my techie husband whose mind is so wrapped with computer jargon like big data, cloud, and SQL all the time, perhaps every job begins and ends in the computing world. He even conjectured that SE could be a Java programmer in a software company nearby. After having confidently defined his vocation, my better half did not elaborate on his credentials while I continued building up his profile. His marital status was marked as unmarried. I even started wondering if he was engaged or not. It was deciphered that gray and beige were his favorite colors because on several days, I had seen him wearing those shades. He was clad in a buttoned shirt and khakis and wore dress shoes. From his attire, I concluded that the dress code in his workplace was semi-formal.

Every evening on our way to the gym, I looked out for SE. If we were a little late in getting ready, I joked that we needed to hurry lest we missed our hero at the crossroads. I kept adding a new attribute to his conjured biographical sketch. It was as though SE was providing me inspiration for the character of a story I was planning to write. For almost a couple of months, we saw him every day, and at least for a few minutes, we chit-chatted focusing on him.

A little laid-back midway with guests visiting and with lame excuses for being busy, we hit the gym after a hiatus of 2 weeks. On the way, I looked for SE at his usual spot, but he did not make his appearance. The days passed, but he was never to be seen again.

Last Wednesday after not having seen him for over 3 months now, I started wondering if SE had changed his job or if he had moved to a different town. The possibilities were endless, and I did explore a bunch of those. I had gotten into such an in-depth analysis of his whereabouts that I totally distracted my husband only to realize a few minutes later that we had missed the road and had driven past the gym.

Mundane scenarios in life do shower us with sprinkles of thrill and curiosity. Kudos to Mr. SE for nurturing my imagination to weave what I would ideally call a web of fallacies. That everything we do stems from our thoughts is also clear as crystal now. Our actions are a result of our thoughts. At times, these thoughts steer us to act mechanically without any rhyme or reason. A total stranger who in all probability we will never meet again had engaged us in lighthearted, lively banter every evening for quite some time and had chartered our driving path, even if it was in the direction we had never planned to go!

4 thoughts on “Stranger at the Crossroads

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