They appear. When they do they don’t yet have names. I don’t conjure them up and never do I expect them. Like I said-they just appear out of nowhere.
Nowhere sounds like a lonely place. Just saying the word makes me feel lost and alone. Try it. You say it. ‘Nowhere.” How did that make you feel? This past week I was going nowhere and I was going there fast.
That husband and I didn’t really have any plans. We were chomping at the bit to do something but we didn’t know where to do it let alone what to do. Doing nothing nowhere is a double negative and we were on our way to both.
We hopped in our vehicle and took off to nowhere. Notice nowhere is not capitalized nor is it a town. It just is what it is; an indecisive inclination to incorporate somethingness into nothingness. When we are in doubt on what to do we go to thrift stores, garage sales, auctions, festivals, and all those little shops in small towns that look like they could use some customers. Sometimes when we go nowhere we just sit on benches together on a street somewhere and watch people and cars and birds. If we are sitting in nowhere doing nothing then we try to imagine what all the other folks are doing as they mingle around us. Everyone seems to be going somewhere but only because they don’t dare admit they’re really going nowhere just like us. The more we go to nowhere the more we enjoy one another, we’ve found. Being nowhere with someone feels oodles better than being nowhere with no one I imagine.
In our years of going nowhere we have recognized and acknowledged something. Though I don’t know the science behind it -we’ve become convinced that there must be something invisible about certain people. I am one of those certain peoples. Forgive my redundancy because I may have told you before. People tell me things. I’m not talking about people who are friends, family or familiar. I’m talking about the plethora of peculiar people who dare proclaim peril, praise, premonition and their husband’s hemorrhoids to me without first introducing themselves. It happened to me again when we went nowhere this week.
We set the GPS to nowhere and ended up in the western part of the state in a run-down, hodge-podge, piled-up thrift store of sorts. It was more like a building of junk but that’s what makes that husband of mine and I giddy. We are always on the search for peculiar things that we can fit in to our cabin décor like the deer hoof coat hanger or the primitive buck saw I found to use as a wall hanging to put photos in. Into the store in nowhere we went. Out of nowhere she appeared.
The building had multiple rooms of stuff. All I did was walk by the doorway when the woman popped her head out at me. It was all a cartoon after that. I’m 5 foot 3 inches tall and I had to look down at her. She had thick, white hair with a part in the middle. She wore the most artistic, rectangular, black eyeglasses which were very smart looking on her. The thick, black plastic was the perfect compliment to the pearl white of her hair. She wore rouge red lipstick and a scarf around her neck. She had her own fashion sense that intrigued me enough to think she wasn’t from nowhere. She stuck her leg out at me and said without introducing herself, “What do you think about this leg? Huh?” I looked behind me to see if she was talking to someone else who was in nowhere with us but nobody was there so I answered. I had allowed my eyes to do a quick inspection by following her leg down. There I saw her showing off a black, 3 inch, high-heeled shoe with rhinestones across the front on a foot with a swollen ankle hidden under a thick, aqua colored sock. I said, “At least you have legs. Now are you going to buy those shoes or are you going to let me?”
Remember. She came out of nowhere and decided to tell me everything. She is an 87-year-old woman who grew up speaking Ukrainian. She was a waitress for most of her life and has one son who has his own website that she is very proud of. She likes shoes. Despite the fact she wears a size 6 and the heels were 7.5 didn’t bother her. She said, “If they don’t fit I just put on a pair of colored socks. Why should all of the big-footed women get to wear the nice shoes?” I couldn’t argue that.
She told me everything I needed to know about her father, a Ukrainian immigrant who was so good looking that he made woman. (I’ll skip telling you that part because it was inappropriate but wildly funny!) She spoke Ukrainian to me and then told me what she said which was also inappropriate and more wild than wildly funny! I was so enthralled with this woman that I lost track of time. That husband of mine came to find me and found me laughing the laugh he loves to witness me laughing. The kind that is real and revitalizing. Then we stood together watching this one-woman act in front of us though she wasn’t acting. She was just a woman out of nowhere who decided to unleash her loneliness on us in the form of humor. Husband paid for what he bought, we said “Goodbye” and left.
I walked to the car explaining to Husband how remarkable that exchange was. A stranger came out of nowhere and was now here. Nowhere-now here. The only thing different in the words is there is a space in-between them. The space is just before the letter “W.” Double you. Double you-double me and neither of us are lonely anymore. See?
Dare to get close. You’ll know when it’s safe and when it’s not.
Strangers can change you, enlighten you, empower you and give you permission to wear shoes too big. They don’t have names and yet you get to know their father like he was your own or wished he was. You get to learn how to say secret things in Ukrainian and you get to have a moment of connection. Connection means you’ve been seen. Being seen means you’re still alive. Being alive means you still have time to go nowhere too.
She, whoever she was, was probably going nowhere that day too. From nowhere to now here. They just appear. They have no names to share. They just fill a space in time and double you. You double me by taking the time to read this column. I thank you for that. Now go dare to go nowhere and find an angel unaware and don’t let her thick ankles, high-heels, colored socks, rectangular glasses, no name and Ukrainian accent fool ya! She was sent.
Ingstad lives on the prairie near Valley City and writes this column for the Times-Record.