The Nice Thing About Strangers

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


The eleven year old girl on the bus moves over to sit in front of her mother. This way she is now in the row across the aisle from me, so we can see each other. She gives me a tight-lipped, shy smile, and I return it. As we ride along, she slumps and points her toes in order to touch the floor. She unzips the front pocket of her bookbag and dips her fingers into a trove of pens and pencils. She feels at them, then leaves her fingers there, as though the writing utensils are holding her hand. She sighs and closes her eyes.

Later, she studies me back. She peers over. She wonders what I see out the window that makes me stare past her, over her head, then smile to myself and scrawl in my notebook, remarkably steady in our swaying bus. I note small plowed fields, hand-planted with beans, and seemingly no houses nearby, or the light before sunset making the young greenery glow.  She doesn’t see it. The girl sits up straight to mimic my posture and smirk.

I can’t help but show how exciting and beautiful I find it to be. I’m pleased to be here and won’t wipe it off my face, even though this makes me a particular curiosity. Her mother speaks with me, quietly, asking where I’m from and saying it’s odd to have visitors here in March. The girl says something to her mother that I can’t understand, and they both smile at me like tourists themselves. “Enjoy your stay,” the mother says as they depart, the young girl nodding her goodbye. And they wave from the road as the bus pulls away.

–Herceg Novi, Montenegro (Photo: Kotor)

11 comments on “Neighborly

  1. beeseeker
    September 17, 2012

    Spent a super week in Kolasin, did you manage to see this area at all? Butterfly meadows, river streams, friendly people and superb mountains.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 17, 2012

      Nope, just Kotor and Budva in Montenegro. I’ve got this mindset that on any trip, I can always go back, so I just roam where the adventures take me. I’ll have to put Kolasin on my list for Someday!

      • beeseeker
        September 17, 2012

        understand – I was thinking of going back to Plitvice – when the Kolasin adventure materialised. Love the title of your blog … will be back again to see more of your interesting observations.

  2. michaelwatsonvt
    June 4, 2014

    I have come to treasure these moments through your eyes.

    • Michael,
      Thank you so much for that kind comment. I love being able to share these little moments, and I do so appreciate you coming to read them. 🙂

  3. M-R
    June 4, 2014

    I never fail to derive delight from your tiny tales, Paige … and what a wonderful place ! How old, do you think …?

    • M-R, you consistently make my day with your comments, so thank you very, very much! (I know we promised not to say thank you, but I’ve been holding it back for a while.)
      Kotor was beautiful. I think those may have been from the 15th or 16th century when the Venetians were in town. 🙂 I could be way off.

      • M-R
        June 4, 2014

        It’s certainly very Venetian. I hadn’t thought of that, but I should’ve – I know they were very exploitative of their near neighbours, and rushed off and beat ’em whenever they could …

      • Pretty leftovers, though. 🙂

      • M-R
        June 4, 2014

        And in so many places !

      • Hehe, I have a feeling if you and I ever traveled together, we would cause a commotion, M-R.

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