Smiling at Strangers | Teen Ink

Smiling at Strangers

March 27, 2010
By foolslikeme GOLD, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
foolslikeme GOLD, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
10 articles 2 photos 10 comments

When I have nothing else to do at home, I drive to Borders in search of comfort. Tall shelves packed with books about everything in the world surround me, and the aroma of hazelnut coffee and soft pretzels stuffed with cream cheese drifts over me. I take laps until settling in the corner of the children’s section with my homework.

Rain has always been my favorite weekend weather, but sunny and breezy was a close second. My mom enlisted my help to plant cherry trees and tulips around our house. My dad kicked around a soccer ball with me after the sun went down. Needless to say, I became a very outdoorsy girl.

Cracks in dry mud are the worst. . I hate looking at the jagged, black gaps around the broken pieces that curve up at the edges. The visual is equivalent to that of hearing fingernails screech down a chalkboard. Very unsettling. I shudder every time.

“Igloo” from Where the Wild Things Are, the opening to My Sister’s Keeper, and “Nick and Norah’s Theme Song” from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist are some of the best songs to listen to before bed. War, poverty, disease… they all disappear when I close my eyes and open my ears. Did you know that I could walk on clouds? I can.

Bad experiences ink deep into my memories. I hate standing in airports for that reason. My flight was delayed for a day, and homesick and tired, I was sent to a hotel in Canada. On the bright side, the breakfast bar had an amazing assortment of fruits.

Gone are the evening strolls and bike rides with Andy and Richard. My brother never learned how to ride a two-wheeler, the training wheels still straining to hold up the flat-tired aluminum contraption outside. Now, I’ve graduated to a world of textbooks and walking the dog. My brother just plays video games.

I was always the leader, the boss, the owner when I was seven. We used to play pretend games every afternoon. We were secret agents on a mission around the neighborhood; we were world-renowned bakers of a French pâtisserie; we were ferocious lions pawing the savannahs.

Alfred was like my little toy when he was a baby. I used to roll him down the couch and laugh when he giggled with excitement. I spent nights encouraging him to walk from one couch to the next; when he collapsed on the opposite couch, I smiled with accomplishment. I dressed him up in my old baby clothes and taught him how to play board games.

I played waiter during holidays, writing up menus, cooking simple dishes, and lighting candles around the dining room. After dinner, I’d collect my tips.

When I smile at strangers, I take snapshots of their childhoods, their traits, their pet peeves. I figure they are all as random and telling as mine

The author's comments:
I wrote this for my Common App essay for Duke University.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Dec. 22 2014 at 7:47 am
MatchaJasmine SILVER, Delhi, Other
5 articles 0 photos 49 comments
Beautifully expressed.