A Stranger

by Harold X

Preface

The start of the end.


He just didn't understand. It seemed everyone around him knew what it was to be normal, as if everyone had a handbook he wasn't privy to. Their interactions were so natural, effortless, and he alone was an outsider.

He watched. Every chance he got, he observed how people stood, how they laughed and loved. He was a stranger in a land that was constantly changing, leaving him behind.

There was always a nagging feeling that he didn't belong. But he fought. He fought the demons; the voices in his head that wrapped around his neck, suffocating him. In the night, they whispered to him, reminding him that he doesn't have a home -- that he was a fraud.

It was an endless struggle for him to foster the embers, remnants of a fire he once had. And yet, he pushes on.

By many accounts, he was intelligent and humorous; some might even call him handsome. But he never felt that way. Every relationship he has is strained, every encounter a new challenge. It never got easier.

It was late when he was walking down the bustling street at the heart of Saigon, a child of two cultures. He grew up in the United States, but has since decided he wanted to find himself in his motherland, Vietnam.

Although it was well past 2am, the busy streets were alive with neon lights and locals strewned the streets, sitting on tiny plastic chairs, drinking and smoking. Music was blaring from the bars that lined the street; it was a life or death struggle for attention.

The loud music and flashing lights offered some relief from his thoughts. As he continued down the street, careful of his posture and calculating all his steps should they betray his appearance of composure, he saw her.

She was a girl, no older than 25, with long, black hair that rested on her back. She was slim and there was a daintiness to her curves. She moved gracefully as she took small sips from her drink. Her eyes lit up as she spoke to the people around her, but he noticed that she wasn't speaking to anyone in particular. Maybe she was just as confused as he is, being pulled by the world around her. There was an innocence about her that captivated him.

Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe he was just tired of being a bystander. If you ask him, he would lie that he does it all the time, but he decided to approach her.

When she caught his eyes, he walked up to her.

"Hi." He said too quickly.

"Hi." She responded, uncertain of who he was but familiar with the advances of men.

He leaned in, speaking over the music, "what's your name?"

"Hoa." She replied with a gentle smile.

It was late, and his courage, as it often does, was leaving him.

"What's your number?" he mustered.

She was surprised by how forward his question was, and many years later, she would tell him she didn't know what to do at that time as she reached for her phone.

He called himself from her phone and quickly left before she discovered that he was holding his breath to maintain his strength.

He knew he would never call her. These things always ended with him staring at his phone, waiting for a message that never came.

(My first time writing a short story. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please let me know if you would like to hear the rest of the story.)

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