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A Friendly Stranger This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Every dawn I am greeted by the same white-haired, sociable, elderly man wandering the neighborhood. His stature is squat, his back hunched, and his bones fragile. As I examine his face, I observe the palpable wrinkles encasing his features. His eyes are glazed over. What he’s looking at, I cannot figure out. He clothes himself in the same style of shirt: short sleeve, three buttons and a collar. His slacks sport the same crisp-linen style and precisely pressed appearance. Around his waist he displays a worn-in dark brown leather belt. It is apparent that his nice dress shoes have ambled many miles in the early morning hours. In his hand he clenches a silver cane to support his failing body. Without the staff, he is unable to carry on his routine. The affable old fellow does not take the voyage on his own, though. At his feet strolls his comrade, a petite snow-white dog. Always smiling, her rosy tongue exposes itself to the world. The two saunter on the same, pond-side route day after day. It has become part of my morning routine to extend a friendly, Southern wave towards the gentlemen. He acknowledges my gesture and exchanges the equivalent with me.

I feel as if I have known this man my whole life, yet I do not know his name and cannot tell you about his personal life experiences. Every day, I try and induce myself into making small talk with the kind chap. And yet, to this day, I have never spoken to the man. I’ve not once introduced myself or asked him if he was having a splendid day. These are simple questions, and yet I cannot bring myself to talk to him.

It was a dreadful day when I did not encounter the old man and his youthful dog. With them nowhere in sight, I felt empty. Empty? Why should I feel empty? I don’t know this man. He’s just a guy I say hi to in the groggy hours of the morning. I couldn’t help but feel a shiver or terror run through my veins. “Is he dead?” I pondered out loud. Wouldn’t that be horrific? What if there’s no one to tend to him? I suddenly felt foolish. I should have extended a friendly greeting, and not just a universal wave through the tinted window of my car. It’s not a demanding task, so why was I so petrified?

Thankfully, the gentleman was not deceased. I’ll never know why he didn’t go out for a daylight stroll on that archetypal morning, but I’ll never forget the intense, foreboding sensation my body experienced. All in all, I made some pretty repentant decisions. I regret not instituting a friendship. In the future, I won’t let fear cloud my sane judgment and I’m definitely not going to be controlled by ludicrous qualms and worries.



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