My dad’s side of the family is kind of a blur. It’s not that there’s a lot of them to remember, it’s that I know little to nothing about them. They’re scattered all over the United States: my grandparents in Arizona, some in central California, a couple cousins in South Carolina…
I live in Atlanta, Georgia, and the money for flights out west tends to add up. But South Carolina, that’s close, right? I should see those two cousins often, at least once or twice a year, right? I should know about my cousins’ hobbies, know what they’re like, what their voices sound like, what they look like…right? I guess I’m an exception.
Because no, I can’t picture my cousin Charlotte, no matter how hard I try. I only see a face framed by some kind of blonde hair. It could be dirty blonde. Maybe it’s golden. Either way, I don’t know what color her eyes are, or how her smile looks when she’s genuinely happy, or how her laugh sounds, or when she cries…I don’t know how that would make me feel. I don’t know if it would rattle me somewhere deep, wind up my insides like some pathetic music box, then let go. I don’t know if I would shed a tear or catch hers with my own finger, or if I would just sit back and watch uncomfortably as someone that I’m blood-related to feels something that I can’t sympathize with. After all, she’s had more complicated issues than I’ve experienced because she’s older than me, not that I would know by how much.
And then there’s Benjamin, Charlotte’s older brother. How old is he? Where is he at college (because I know that much)? Does he have the kind of voice that someone remembers when they leave? Is it deep and guttural, or hollow and wispy? Maybe if I met him I’d know, and maybe I could be sitting here writing this in his voice. What color hair does he have, while we’re at it? I’ve seen one childhood picture of him, and I can’t even recall its details. His hair seemed blonde, but maybe it’s darker now. Is he thin, broad, timid, quirky? Is he funny, at least? Is he smart, does he have a girlfriend? Is he a jerk, or would he give a man the shirt off of his back? Is he full of life, can you see it in him when he walks, speaks, writes, chuckles? Does he sing, like me? Do we have something in common, at the least?
Does he want to meet me as much as I want to meet him?
Perhaps the real question is: why don’t I know any of these things if they’re only 338.7 miles away from me?
Of course, I know why. I’ve heard the stories about my parents’ wedding, about my dad’s travels to see his brother, about the person that stands in the way from me ever meeting two members of my family. I only have one lifetime, as do Benjamin and Charlotte. I only have one childhood, but I’m seventeen now, so that’s as good as gone. I only have the rest of my life to form a relationship with two people, two people whom I’ve never met but love nonetheless.
So, Stranger, I suppose that love is strange that way, in that you don’t have to know someone to know that you love them. I suppose that it’s natural to wish that you could have longer with someone, if it only weren’t for one person that blocks the way. I suppose it’s odd to expect them to love you back. But, love is strange that way.
So, to a Stranger (or two),