The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Staring Contest

From the back of her head she seemed too young to be mother of those two children.  The mother pulled her daughter close and studied some food residue on the toddler’s face. Just as she began to dig for a cloth, still holding the giggling child’s face in her hand, a soccer team assembled at Gate B12. Nearly twenty men of varying heights and levels of boredom shuffled in wearing matching warm-ups.

One player sat a bit apart from the others. He wore red shoes and stared down at them. Other men put on headphones, made phone calls, consumed sandwiches, but the solo man sought other distractions. He studied an over-glossed woman, busily trying to read a magazine despite the sudden appearance of so many men in her vicinity. She felt his gaze and matched it, briefly, before he smirked and she blushed, and they broke away into respective daydreams.

Red shoes enjoyed this encounter and started scanning the other waiting passengers at the gate. His teammates tried to pull him into a joke, but he was on a task. Finally, his eyes settled on a woman writing in a notebook.  He tried to undo her with a full stare, but she smirked and blinked straight back. After some frustration, he began to notify the others. The players feared, delighted, in being observed and recorded in ink. They tried to interrupt the author’s story–which began with a young mother waiting on her airplane–by forcing themselves to exist. They protested any chance at being overlooked by clearing their throats and comparing abs. They were relatively handsome, suddenly boisterous, and sponsored by Kia.

After only a few minutes, the team lost interest. Yet, red shoes grew more determined. He shot her the sort of straight-on look one wouldn’t give a stranger. He locked her under the stare as best he could. But his gaze was no match for this Houdini, who glanced up while scrawling and smirking, going about her business, making little pretense of doing anything other than taking him down.

-Frankfurt Airport, Germany

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