PERFECT STRANGER

My eyes left the page of “The 100-year-old Man who climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” when I head his voice, a voice of a perfect stranger that wouldn’t let me be. It spoke Bahasa Indonesia like a local, but not exactly like a local. The vowels sounded longer than they should compared to the vowels spoken by the two other voices. My eyes fell on the table obliquely to my left. There he was in a conversation with a man and a woman: his salt-and-pepper hair framing his sun-kissed angular face and strong chin, his hands gesticulating while his companions either nodded or interjected.

Then the voices had stopped wafting through the air. I peeked from the top of my book and there he was inches from my table. Oh no! My perfect stranger was leaving. He flashed a smile in my direction as they walked towards the exit. To my relief, he and the woman were only showing the other gentleman out of La Tartine. Then they went back to their table and an American accent intermingled with Indonesian floated inside the restaurant. I noticed he had on a white short-sleeved shirt paired with blue jeans and blue espadrille-like shoes. Simple and understated.

I couldn’t shake the voice – that captivating voice that spoke Indonesian but with a foreigner’s linguistic lilt – as I pulled the door handle to step out of the restaurant. Last I heard, he was talking with the waitress in Bahasa Indonesia. It was something about making sure that his seizure salad – a bowl of lettuce with grilled chicken or grilled black smoked ham and croutons – wasn’t swimming in the restaurant’s special dressing.

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