Ice cream with a stranger: When life forces a check-in with oneself

There I sat, face to face with a partial mirror of my former self, disguised as a stranger and a singer who initiated verbal contact with a joke.

“I still have a learner’s permit for this thing.” – he said, smiling as he cleaned ice cream from his table, left arm, and shirt.

“I consider myself a pro.” – I replied, wondering if to go into the details of my claim.

“Humanity is has gone to shit because of covid and religion” – he expressed in a mannerism not matching the statement he just made.

That was harsh, I thought. Not sure how to reply, I gave an is-that-so response hoping the surprise and confusion the comment induced wasn’t too apparent.

The carefree facial expression he displayed failed to fully conceal the residue from the devastation the pandemic caused, separating him from his passion. A musician who sang with famed jazz musicians loved his work but was robbed of it and has not had a gig for over 16 months.

Not totally unsympathetic, but without taking any particular stance regarding the current reality, I responded – yes, the times have changed, and consequently humanity with it.

Agreeing, yet not taking in what I said, he continued.

– “I don’t understand who would want to bring a child into this world, meaning humanity is doomed anyway.”

He gave the example of kids’ lives being controlled by devices… and countered my comment on parents’ responsibilities with;

– “We have no idea what they do when not with us. The youngsters live in a totally different world when parental figures are not around.”

I thought to further argue the importance of parental roles and how it all begins and ends from this perspective, but sensing he was coming from a place of solely wanting to express… I remained silent.

He then shared that his all-too-young son turned him into a grandfather, despite his advice. Then, pretty much out of nowhere, that humankind is not built for monogamy.

I cannot be sure if he was aware of it, but he was in pain; he was suffering. He did well passing it off as a life-wisdom, and maybe it was.

At this point in the conversation, I was reminded about myself. My very own all-too-young son also made me a grandfather, and I was equally convinced it was too early.

I was worried he would have regrets later in life for whatever he might have had left undone or dreamt of doing. Part of me thought he would fail, although I had no idea what that failure might have looked like.

My firstborn is the father of a beautiful baby girl whom he loves with all his heart. He made a conscious choice, and he is happy he did. No matter what follows, it could never be seen as a failure.

And on the topic of monogamy, I was never pro-marriage either. I never saw the point or understood why people desired it so, and in some cases from a very young age. My view was a pragmatic one.

After all, you could live together with equal rights in the eye of the law. There were no particular requirements to bring new life into the world, and you could still be together until death do you apart.

But more importantly, I just did not feel it. It was not enough for it to be… convenient.

Now I am in the process of getting married, and it’s fundamentally important to me on a spiritual level. I am yet to fully grasp the significance of two souls uniting, but it is definitely a worthy life quest.

I was under the impression that him talking to me was actually him convincing himself… or maybe seeking affirmation from another man that what he perceives is the truth. Sometimes all a person needs is to express him- or herself.

At first, I viewed our conversation as insignificant. In that, it’s just a couple of strangers exchanging words that would shortly be forgotten when the time came to part ways.

But as the conversation progress, I started picking up the similarity in feelings and sentiment with my former self.

This man, who was just one year short of being sixty, waiting for his ex-wife at an ice cream shop while sharing his experiential responses to life with a stranger, demonstrated an alternate timeline I could’ve still been on.

And I believe, as my future wife noted, that he was showing me how I have grown and where I currently am in my evolution as a masculine and a person.

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