In the bustling old square of Stockholm, Sanil Sachar finds himself in a scene that, in another life, would have been quickly forgotten, but left him with a profound understanding. 

 

 

“How about a different beer today?” Isabelle asked, as she served me the house beer at the bar that I had made my base for four days. Her golden blonde hair rested on a white shirt, freshly stained by clearing plates.

 

On family vacations, I was often told not to speak to strangers. A shy boy, I didn’t consider it a missed opportunity until later in life when it became apparent that the best stories emerge when we venture out of our comfort zone. Thus, began my solo travels.

 

Seated in the verandah of a bar in Stockholm’s oldest square, Stortorget, the summer winds caressed the loose pages I was writing on. Tourists scurried on the streets, resembling an army of ants, met at the fountain in the centre, the same way a river always laps against its bank.

 

I was summing up the courage to ask Isabelle for a cup of coffee when an overpowering voice interrupted my thoughts. A man stood tall and broad, beyond the fence separating the bar’s porch, with a basket around his neck carrying an assortment of souvenirs that he had offered to me.

 

His gaze caught Isabelle’s, a look inspired by past familiarity.

 

“How about coffee later?” her voice sang, mirroring my thoughts and left me thinking if it was me the question was directed at. Most definitely him, if the look was an indication.

 

Caught in their rising tensions, I saw children ahead of me running, oblivious to us, this exchange, and much of the bustle around.

 

She repeated herself and I realised my time was up.

 

“I’ll have the mints,” I told him and gulped my beer, a decision I regretted the morning after. He acknowledged me by nodding at Isabelle, and a smile lit up her face. As I paid him 30 kronas, I hoped my bills would be used for their date, just so I could be a part of their story in a small, inconsequential way.

 

This minutes’ interaction may have been forgotten within seconds, but it has stayed with me as a wonderment: We are all strangers until one random act such as this reveals a lot about our life.