fiction

Stranger In A Strange Place. {fiction}

No one knew her, and yet there was something unsettlingly familiar about her silhouette upon the road, the way the light caught her smile, the timbre of her laugh. Yes, she was a stranger, but surely they had met before?

They ask her, Where are you from? And she hesitates — unwilling or unsure, who could say? You have been here before? they question, for surely there is something about your face.

Having reached the square, the stranger lingers by the tavern door, now, as if reconsidering her decision to enter. She is a stranger in a strange place, and she does not know how to answer their queries to satisfaction. Unsettled by their unsettlement. Made shy by their curiosity, yet her modesty reads as indifference, and they grow cold.

She stayed away a long time, the stranger did, and though her shadow strikes upon memory’s door, they do not know her, and she cannot explain. Yes, she is a stranger, but she comes from nowhere. Blood of their blood, heart of their heart, she is a stranger, but she has been there before.

The shake of a tambourine escapes through the open door. Memories, collected as moon piled upon glowing moon, she cannot hope to share. A foot stomps; hands clap. A thousand miles — maybe more — to carry her around the world and back, but no feet, however dogged, can overcome the years elapsed. A tankard meets the long wooden table with a thud, and the gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes on her shadow is louder than thunder.

The stranger carries the desert wind in her hair and strange letters upon her back. The soles of her feet reveal the dirt of the road, and her heart — her heart is crowded with poems, stories and distant legends untold.

But, she does not know how to set down her load.

Where are you from? You have been here before? Their questions goad her, tempt her from the shadows, but again she hesitates at the threshold.

Can she step inside? Or rather, can she carry this space — the time, the memories between her and this place — with her, or must she sacrifice one for the other?

Must she relinquish the falcon wings of her imagination, grown so much wider since her leaving? The mermaid pool of her soul, so much deeper? And the redwood forest of her mind, so much taller?

She cannot. She dare not. She shall not.

Faces once so familiar, grown distant and cold — and so much older. Fabrics frayed and faded. And yet, the tambourine calls to her innermost heart; the patter of voices, slurps, claps and stomps, so achingly familiar, speaks directly to her core.

But still, the faces, unyielding. The gazes, unrecognizing. The voices, demanding and too stiff.

No feet, however dogged, can ever travel back.

She betrays nothing as she hovers in between, the stranger does. Wonders. In or out, here or there, I or we? A stranger in a strange place, she wonders if this is home, after all.

***

Toby IsraelToby Israel is an incorrigible vagabond. She travels in search of dragons, mermaids, adventures and searches… and cross-cultural understanding. Avid dancer, yogi, cook and lover of words, she is inspired by movement and poetry, good food and new things. She studied Anthropology at Middlebury College, and now works as an editor at elephant journal. She also continues to find her way in the world as a 21st century nomad, and you can share her journey at Next Stop World, Twitter and Facebook.

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