Evening with a Stranger

What defines a stranger?

Hungry from cycling, I was looking for a nice spot by Nuottalahti where I can settle down and have my dinner. It has been really nice picnic-ing by the sea or fields, exploring new spaces. I spotted a deck which looked promising, except for the fact that it was already occupied – a man was there fishing.

After circling round the bay, the deck still looks like the best option. Interesting how the ‘first love’ often seems to be shinier and better than anything else that follows. It took me a few seconds of deliberation before I stepped onto the long boardwalk leading to the deck, careful to tread quietly so as not to somehow scare away all his fishes.

The man had three fishing rods hanging off the deck, and he was busy adjusting one of them. I asked if he would mind if I stay here for a while. I could not quite make out what his reply was – he had a cigarette dangling off the corner of his mouth and it sounded like “can”. Or was it “can’t”. Hmm… that sounds more like a Singaporean way of responding! I stood there, trying to figure out what he meant, and then decided to repeat my question. He reached into his backpack, took out a plastic bag, opened it, and extended it to me. I peeped in and was amused to realise that he was offering me a freshly caught fish. I wonder what he thought I was asking! Eventually, it was still good old body language that works best in communicating when verbal language fell apart.

And for the next hour or two, we sat in silence. Me with my dinner and him with his fishing rods. A few seagulls rivaled him in hunting for food… two swans glided past in the distance with four cygnets*… a granny came by with a little girl. As the girl happily threw bread into the waters, the granny and man chatted. It was silence again after they left.

*cygnet: the young of a swan

I thought about how enjoyable that evening was, how we communicated briefly only at the beginning and when we said goodbye, and how it felt so natural to share the small space. No words were needed, there was respect for each other, and there was trust that the other would reciprocate that respect.

I thought about how this is not always present between people who have been in some form of relationship for a while, be it as friends, family, or others. The Stranger here was momentarily my family, enjoying a gorgeous sunset with me, even if for just that evening.


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