so that happened

Falling Half in Love with Strangers

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I love being able to express myself in writing.

It feels more accurate somehow than speaking words. Talking for me can sometimes feel like playing tennis with a colander; I mean, it’s possible, I can do it, but it’s not ideal. The ball goes over the net, but just about. It goes where I want it to go… more or less. I can’t be sure it’ll hit it’s mark, but I can hope. Later, I’ll go home and think about how I could have done it some other, better way.

Writing is different.

Writing is a tennis racket. When I’m writing, I have the time to think about what I’m trying to say, and then mentally flip through millions of words looking for the one that slots into my sentence like that Tetris block you’ve been waiting five minutes for; the one that gives you a combo and wipes the screen clean. Finding the right word feels satisfying, and I’m always on the lookout for new words to add to my vocabulary. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve probably noticed this already (like with Hygge and Sonder). I collect words.

Sometimes I find myself reaching into other languages for words that describe feelings or situations that there’s no term for in English. I’m bilingual – Spanish/English – and there are times when I can feel a Spanish word trying to force itself into an English sentence because there’s no English equivalent.

… And yet, even with two entire languages to pick words from (and a smattering of others), I still sometimes find myself searching for a word that doesn’t exist.

I am on the lookout for a particular word.

I want a word for the feeling I get when I connect with a total stranger for a few minutes or hours, and then never see them again. It’s an ability to suddenly feel profound, intense affection for someone I don’t know. It’s not physical attraction, necessarily. It can happen with men or women. It is a non-discriminatory feeling that happens without warning, without rhyme or reason. I want a word that explains how I can feel instantly and powerfully attached to somebody and then, in a perverse way, almost hope never to see them again.

Is there a word for that?

There are a handful of people I’ve met over the years who I still think about from time to time, because even if I only spent a few hours with them, in those hours I was invested. I wanted to know everything about them. I fell a little bit platonically in love with them and their stranger-ness. I felt something that I don’t have a word for, and I hate that. I felt a nameless, wordless bond.

If you’re thinking, ‘Quinn, what are you on about?‘ … here’s an early example.

About half a lifetime ago I was in Vienna, Austria, with barely any German and friends who had succumbed to sickness. I wandered out into the city by myself, and walked the cobbled streets alone with only a crumpled paper map for orientation. These were the days before smartphones, and everything was just a little more complicated. In the square behind a large cathedral, I pulled out my map and tried to trace my finger down the streets I had walked earlier. A voice interrupted my thoughts in harsh German and I turned to find a long line of horse and carriages parked along the kerb. One of the carriage drivers, dressed smartly in a black felt hat and waistcoat, was observing me with amusement.

“Lost?” He asked.

I nodded and trotted towards him. After all, if anyone knew the streets of Vienna it had to be the carriage drivers. He nodded his head at the padded bench beside him and helped me up into the driver’s seat. Up close I realised he was young, with bright blue eyes and a friendly, shy smile. He had a small gold hoop in one ear. I was alone and bored and lost, so I flattened the map against my thighs with the palms of my hands and explained in broken German where I had come from and what I was doing there. I told him I had no plans for the evening, and was just looking for landmarks to visit that wouldn’t require too much walking.

He nodded as I spoke, and pointed out a few different landmarks. Every few minutes a carriage would depart from the front of the line and our carriage would jostle as he coaxed his horses forward.

And then it happened. That wordless, nameless thing.

There is an entirely regular level of healthy interest that we as humans have in each other. When you meet someone for the first time, often there are a number of things you want to know about the person. A lot of adult conversations start with “What do you do?” or “Where do you live?” or “How do you know Martin/Julia/Alex/Sam?”

The wordless, nameless thing I feel skips the superficial curiosities of that regular level of interest. I lock onto people. My curiosity spontaneously mutates from a lukewarm, detached interest to a many-tendrilled absorption in the person in front of me. Once this happens, my curiosity extends into private, hidden corners; darkest secrets and earliest memories and family histories and relationships and hobbies.  I want to know what they do to feel better when they’re feeling low. I want to know their favourite food. I want to know when they last cried, and why. I want to know how they get on with their siblings (if they have any), whether they like to dance or prefer to sit by the bar, what age they realised the truth about Santa Claus, and how. I want to know what drives them, and I want to know what led to their presence next to me in that particular moment, out of the 7 billion other people in the world.

If that sounds extremely intense… I realise that. Don’t worry, I don’t interrogate people like I’m trying to solve a crime. I do gently question them though. Max, my friendly carriage driver, told me about how carriage-driving was a family tradition. He told me about the routes he usually took. He told me about how long he had been doing the job, and his worst experience with a passenger. He told me about his horses and his family. He pointed out his favourite spot in Vienna and his favourite coffee shop. We talked for about 45 minutes, and then a middle-aged French couple approached him for a carriage ride and I realised we had reached the top of the queue. Blushing, I stammered an apology and stood to jump down, but Max shook his head and gently motioned for me to stay seated.

“You come?”

I had just watched money change hands and realised that a carriage ride cost about €80. As a broke teenager, I had absolutely no discretionary funds for carriage rides around the city. I told Max as much, and he shrugged.

“You are not passenger. You are co-driver.”

The carriage ride was about 45 minutes of magic. I had never been on a horse-drawn carriage before, but compared to the paying customers I definitely felt like I got the best seat in the house. Sitting up high on the driver’s bench with Max telling me about the landmarks and explaining their history, Vienna looked different. The evening sun threw a golden filter over the intricately carved stonework on the buildings. I glanced over my shoulder at the French couple; the woman’s head was nestled into the man’s shoulder, and the two of them were smiling at nothing in particular. I could see how Vienna might easily be as romantic as Paris.

In between landmarks I slid in more personal questions. I asked about Max’s parents, his ambitions, what he did in his free time. He gruffly answered every question, with a shy smile every now and then to show he didn’t begrudge me my curiosity. Every so often he would mutter a question of his own, his low voice hard to hear over the sound of trotting hooves.

By the time we circled back around to the church, night was falling. The streets were clearing, and some of the other carriage drivers were disappearing in the dusk as they turned in for the night. I hopped down from the carriage, checking my watch.

“I guess it’s time for you to go home,” I said, gesturing at the carriages trundling away.

“Ja.”

“Okay. Well. Vielen Dank Max. That was… amazing.”

Max accepted my thanks with a sharp nod.

“Where do you go now?” My curiosity again. “Where do the horses sleep?”

“Other side of river” he said, gesturing with his arm. “Over…”

I opened up my map again and he studied it for a moment before pointing at an area of Vienna I had never visited.

“You come?”

I looked up to find him looking at me with an inscrutable expression.

I looked down at the map. The area he was pointing to was pretty far away. How would I get home? Nobody knew where I was. Then again, I had no other plans, and I was stuck in this nameless, wordless feeling with Max, Austrian stranger.

I looked up at him with a smile. “Sure!”

He held out a hand and helped me back up into the carriage.

I pried further into his life on the carriage-ride to wherever we were going. He told me about his last girlfriend and how long they had been together and how it had ended. He told me about the food that brought back childhood memories for him, and how he had spent his birthday. At one point, clattering over cobblestones on a dimly lit, empty street, he nudged my thigh with his hand.

“What?”

“You want?”

His hand opened slightly, offering me the reins.

“Me? I can’t! Max, I’ll crash your carriage.”

He nodded insistently and put the reins in my hands.

“You feel?”

I did feel. There was a tension on the reins, a sort of pushing, pulling, rhythmic motion. It immediately gave me a feeling of both pure joy and total calm. I gripped the leather tight and felt focus and control wash over me. He let me drive the carriage down the streets of the city, guiding my hands when we needed to turn, or tugging when we needed to slow down. Eventually we reached our destination, and he slowed the horses to a stop and jumped down to lead them through a large door between townhouses.

I felt my eyes widen as we passed under the stone arch and through time straight into the 1800’s. A small stone courtyard paved in cobblestones housed four stables with glossy emerald wooden doors. Lit by half a dozen warm yellow lamps, I watched as a cat yawned and sat up on a hay bale to greet us. I hopped down, completely enchanted, as Max parked the carriage and led the horses to their stables. I gazed up at the baroque townhouses flanking the little courtyard, my mouth hanging open. When Max tapped my elbow to get my attention, I was startled back to the present.

“I come back. I shower.” He said, running his fingers along the brim of his black felt hat.

“Okay.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, Max, go have your shower.”

“After, drinks?”

“Sure.”

He disappeared, undoing the buttons of his waistcoat as he went. I spun around and sat down on a hay bale to pet the cat. Fifteen minutes later a man emerged from a building to my right.

“Hey!” he shouted, and I looked up, startled.

How would I explain my presence? Was I even allowed to be here? I looked around for Max.

“Hey,” he said again, and stopped in front of me. My eyes slid over this man’s body, from his leather boots, past his ripped jeans, over his white and red motorcycle jacket. A red motorcycle helmet dangled from his hand, and he had very pale blonde hair cropped short. He had a cowlick at the front. I stared at his face, frozen in panic.

Then I saw the gold hoop earring. It was Max.

I started laughing.

Out of his work clothes, he looked like a completely different person. He looked much younger. I realised he was only a couple of years older than I was. Without the hat, his blue eyes looked impossibly big and it was much easier to read his expression. He was pink from his shower, and he flushed and rolled his eyes when I explained, through gasps of relieved laughter, that I hadn’t recognised him.

The rest of the night was idyllic. He refused to let me on his motorbike because he only had one helmet, but we walked together to an open-air bar by the river and sat at a picnic table drinking and laughing and asking each other questions until the night wound down and I realised I needed to get home. He offered to walk me, but I declined the offer. The whole evening I had been suspended in a bubble with Max, and now I felt like I was holding a pin, ready to burst it and step out into the real world again.

We walked to the bridge, and he took my hands with an earnest expression. He said that he always had breakfast in the corner cafe near the cathedral on Wednesdays. He said if I wanted to find him, I knew where he would be. He told me he hoped to see me again. Then he kissed me on the cheek and squeezed my hands before turning and walking away, motorcycle helmet swinging at his side.

I didn’t go to the cafe on Wednesday. Although part of me wanted to see Max again, a larger part of me felt that we had spent a perfect evening together, and that was enough. I had half fallen in love with a total stranger over the course of a few hours. I had learned so much about him. I knew more about Max than I knew about some of my friends.

I never saw him again.

Every once in a while, I wonder what Max is doing. I wonder if he still draws in his spare time. I wonder if he still drives the same carriage through the streets of Vienna, and whether that coffee shop is still there on that corner. I wonder if he still has a small gold hoop in his ear. I wonder if he has a family now, and whether he remembers an evening spent talking about life with a stranger from Ireland, who was lost and bored and open to the possibility of being kidnapped. I hope Max is well. I hope he is happy. I hope that his life has been untouched by tragedy.

A few memorable hours spent with a total stranger, and I still care about their wellbeing years later. I still send good wishes their way when I think of them, for whatever those are worth.

There really should be a word for that.

468 thoughts on “Falling Half in Love with Strangers

  1. 1. I loved this.
    2. I love “the wordless, nameless” feeling, as it’s both apt and relatable.
    3. If there’s ever a mainstream word for it, it might lose some of its magic, Quinn. Many, perhaps most, people will never invest in a stranger in that way. Will never exercise the courage or possess the comfort to be part of a wordless, nameless moment. I think it’s awesome that you’re one of the people who can and do. I think it’s awesome that you’re thoughtful enough to have even conceived of this idea, and delivered the perfect story to capture it.
    And, at the risk of sounding like I’m rooting against the thing you’re searching for, I think savoring something wordless and nameless is just about as delightful a thing as I can think of.
    Thanks for this.
    A phenomenal think-piece without one bit of pretentiousness.
    Cheers to Max. And you.

    1. That’s true Matt. Maybe you have a point. Maybe it deserves to stay nameless. Words have a certain power to them too, but I like the idea that it’s rare and perhaps too uncommon for a common word. Thanks Matt.

  2. Wow.. it was enchanting.. I was totally mesmerised in what you had to say. I could feel every moment like I was observer seeing all this happen from distant and what you said is true. there should be a word for it..

  3. That was wonderful! I know exactly that feeling. I’m just like that! Part of you feels like you’re asking too many questions but then this quote pops in my head “No woman ever left a date unhappy saying ‘ugh I spent the whole night talking about myself!’”. And it’s true, people love to tell their own stories, but it seems so few people really want to listen. Most of the time they ask a question only to follow up with their own stories as if they never heard yours. But like you, I could spend all day trying to find out more about a person and completely forget to tell them about me. I love that feeling, even if it’s nameless. Oh, btw, it can happen with couples too. My wife had a similar experience with 2 different couples while in Italy.

  4. Wow, what an amazing story. This post was captivating- it feels like your experience was something surreal and absolutely beautiful. That word for strong but fleeting love should exist, and if it does, I hope that you find it.

  5. Quinn, I can’t tell you how glad I’m that you started this blog and started writing. I read your every post, as soon as I get a notification.

    I guess there will always be experiences that would not be able to match words in numerous languages. It is when such experiences are recognised that we bother to fit them in the realms of known combination of the syntax of a language. Some things are rather experienced than be known in words. My name was given by my parents, for example, I do not think of my name so much, only sometimes when people ask the meaning for it, but that’s another story (this one to be exact fictionalised by my friend: https://mysoulscompany.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/the-boy-who-conquered/).

    Our thoughts are almost always approximately converted into words no matter how hard we try. I think that wordless, in silence, unlabeled connection with people is something that deserves a dog’s lick and a human beans’ (as BFG would say) awe and wonder.

    I love what you write. I love that you take time out to build it slowly, taking time. I don’t know how dreamy it is, and I’m even tempted to say in the undulation of the inundation that these words have triggered, that I could meet you someday, I most probably will not. But this, I’ll always keep reading what you write, one email notification at a time.

    Gratitude _/_

    1. That’s a good idea! Tagging them in Twitter or emailing one of the WP editors has worked in the past. I’ll give that a try.

  6. The closest word that comes to mind is serendipity, though I don’t think it quite encapsulates this experience quite completely.

    Out of all your posts, this one is by far my favorite (my apologies to Lenny, tu madre, the bald Japanese man who likes to point out UFOs and Olga). Thank you so much for sharing your amazing gift for writing (yet again) and for sharing another whimsical story of yours.

    1. Oh thanks! It seriously felt like the perfect evening. I’m glad other people are also able to enjoy the evening … somehow … through this!

  7. Hi Quinn; just to say, this is a really great story!
    I’ve had a few similar experiences (though could not describe them so well) that do fall under that specific, special heading.
    Two of my favourite words are “serendipity” and “synchronicity”… and whatever the word is for what you describe, I feel it should be something along similar lines (though doesn’t have to start with S and end with Y, of course…)

    1. I like those words too! Especially serendipity. I’m sure in some language there is a word for it! They’re nice experiences to have, aren’t they?

      1. Oh definitely: whether you believe in fate/destiny or not, what can’t be denied is that such experiences remain in the memory for life — and we never quite know when the next one will happen.
        Haha well if the word exists I’ve a feeling it’ll probably be found in Italian or Gaelic!

  8. Ahhh…love nights like this. I have had two magical nights in my lifetime. Nights I will never forget. There is something to be said for the temporary, but none the less meaningful, love affair.

    1. I feel like I have a few of these memories. I pull them out from time to time and examine them and they just make me feel so content. Like, things like this happen. The world can feel magical. Keep your chin up and your powder dry!

    1. Hahaha it would have been a great first date activity… Although would it have been as magic if it’d had been planned? Part of its greatness was how unexpected it was!

    1. It really is! I’m also not outwardly a romantic but that entire evening felt like it didn’t belong in real life. Walking home that night I felt like I was leaving a surreal parallel universe or waking up from a dream. I love that I can think about it still and remind myself that sometimes the world can be a magic place, despite the bad days.

  9. So… your art of live, verbal articulation has not been as refined as your writing skills, huh? Hmmmm. 😛

    I want a word for the feeling I get when I connect with a total stranger for a few minutes or hours, and then never see them again.

    Is there a word for that?

    Hah! I believe there’s a word or two for that in the DSM-5. 😉 <3

    Seriously though Quinn, this was a delightfully thrilling, hilarious story! Please don't learn anymore languages! Hehehe

    P.S. I am totally joking about the DSM-5 part, ok!?

    1. Definitely not. In person I spend too much time daydreaming and not enough time linking my brain to my mouth! Hahaha you might be on to something!

  10. Oh Quinn, you have a way of grasping at my heart. I could easily use that word on you. I know exactly what you mean, I have met many people in my life and felt that word for them. I can picture them in my head. This was one of my favorites. You are one of my favorites 🙂

  11. In a less beautiful and meaningful vein- This makes me think of all the drunk girls I bonded with in bar bathroom lines. How is she doing now? Did she make up with her boyfriend? Find the courage to chat up the cute guy in the corner? Take my advice? Get a wicked hangover the next day? 😉

  12. There’s an undeniable thrill about meeting a stranger and spending a few hours together, indulging in each other’s lives. It’s that spurt of saying whatever you want and leaving it behind with someone who’ll never look at you and think of it again. And your narrative is so magical Quinn. Wow. Fell in love with it. <3 <3

  13. This one gave me goosebumps and little fluttery things in my heart! You are a gifted writer and you transported me to this other world. The idea of getting to know a stranger is soo romantic! You need to be writing a novel ASAP!

  14. Okay, this is gorgeous and I loved every bit of it. Like… that feeling that you can’t find a word for? I just had that feeling about this blog post. You need to work this into a short story – or even turn it into a novel that spans just one evening. It’s beautiful and I’m going to tell everyone to read it.
    Thank you to This Stuff Is Golden for leading me here!!

  15. The word is… tease. Great post, seriously, it has all the qualities of very good short story. I wonder how poor Max felt like, waiting for you that Wednesday. I wonder how long he waited. I wonder if ever again took a beautiful Irish lass for a spin in his carriage, or if he thought better of ever extending himself that way agin. Or if he does this all the time, playing the odds. Or if he is now married to an Irish tourist, after having looked for your double for 5 years. Are they happy, I wonder? You see, it’s a great story, that engages the imagination. It hinges on whether or not you ended up going to bed with him. If that seems crass, I wonder if he would have gone out of his way like this, had you been not as attractive, or were 40 years older? At any rate, a perfect story, that is all about sexuality, yet is not. Today he would have asked for your number, and he would have called it… I wonder if you have answered the phone, assuming you have given him the right one.

    1. I wonder too… I hope he felt like I did that it was a good enough evening to leave it at that. I didn’t feel any push from him which is partly why I felt safe around him. I think if I had seen obvious intentions I would have bolted. I hope he’s happy. He gave me a lovely memory and I don’t know how he would have acted had I been someone else. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but I’m satisfied with the ones he did answer!

      Really, the truth is that none of this would have happened today, because google maps would have sorted out my tour of Vienna and I would never have needed his help in the first place…. Strange to think it.

  16. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that we all belong to a Kuras (I hope I am remembering that correctly). This was a group of people that belonged together. It was not a group based on hometowns or colleges or anything organized. It was that the universe put these people together and threw them together regularly in life after life. (There is a bit of a reincarnation factor here) Regardless of geography and language groups, these people would all find a way to interact with each other in their next lifetime.
    While this doesn’t exactly fit what you are talking about, I think Vonnegut was onto something for you. Could this person really have been a total stranger? Maybe you had already had a previous life connection and you could feel the residual energy.
    Now, before I sound a bit whacky, I don’t want you to think of me as a new age person. I am not. I just read a lot and some ideas really stick with me.
    I too have met people that I felt an instant connection to–and not in a pickup kind of way. I knew we should be friends (not nearly an accurate enough word for these intense friendships which were destined to blow themselves up completely) but I couldn’t always say why. I also couldn’t understand why the friendship had such a rocky turbulence to it.
    Now I am just blathering and I will stop.

  17. Hello Quinn..
    Thank you for sharing your story…It makes me feel warm and light, with a strange sort of satisfaction filling my heart..I can understand what you mean, for I too have the tendency to fall platonically in love with people, so much that I want to know them the best in the world, be emotionally and intellectually intimate with them, but without physically intimacy. There isn’t a physical attraction that is so characteristic of romantic love. But there is that intense feeling of wanting to know, to talk,to listen, and to spend time together, connect ed by an inexplicable, sacred bond…most people do not understand such a sacred, intense feeling can even exist. The feeling is asexual, and almost spiritual. The connection is formed between the minds, hearts and souls of two individuals. I’ve experienced this a lot towards people around me, but never with a complete stranger..partly because I (like most of us) find it difficult to trust a complete stranger. This is where your story has an exotic flavor, as it carries a blissful experience that many of us have denied ourselves.
    The feeling can be pretty intense and even self-intimidating. Like you, I had been looking for a suitable word to describe it, since our dictionary has no satisfactory word to offer. I think I’ve found a nearly appropriate word recently , coined by the asexual community. It is called a ‘squish’. It’s like an intense platonic ‘crush’ without physical or sexual attraction or need/want. It is not actually romantic, but can be as intense and deep as a romantic love.
    I hope that helps..Thank you again for sharing your story.
    Love,
    -Surya😊

  18. Wow I really enjoyed this story and I know exactly what you are talking about. I recently had a similar experience where I met someone (ironically also named Max) again after 7 years. It was kind of amazing. And I don’t know if there is a word for that, but maybe the German ‘Anziehungskraft’ (~appeal) comes close.
    Wonderful story.

    1. People are fascinating! As Randy Pausch said in his last lecture, give people enough time and they will almost always pleasantly surprise you!

      It’s giving people the time that’s difficult, I think…

  19. Lovely post!! Maybe Max would have the right word? I have spent considerable time around Amish people, and have found the German language to be quite colorful, supplying words that English lacks, words that nail it so unspeakably well.

    1. I didn’t realise the Amish speak German! It’s true though that German often has words for things that are woefully unrepresented in English…

  20. You may want to read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Throughout the book it talks about the “language of the world” and how we can understand others from completely different cultures without words or without overt communication at all… we just, know.
    In The Alchemist you’ll also find this word “Maktub”, an Arabic word that means something to the effect of “It is known”, or “It is written”. It’s a great word for those little moments in life where the omens just seem to line up with no explanation necessary.
    Great essay, thank you for sharing!

  21. Brilliant writing here. This reminds me of a time I was stuck in a subway car for 40 minutes and I experienced that same feeling, instead with about 3 people. There’s something quite romantic about knowing you’ll most likely never see them again. Absolutely loved this read!

  22. Awww! Quinn this is the first time ever I have read your blog and I just loved it. Got a little emotional too. Thank you so so much for sharing such a beautiful content.

  23. What a magical moment! I agree with your decision not to go to the cafe the next morning – it would have broken the spell. I also agree that writing about this is easier than speaking about it, although we really do need a word for these moments! Maybe the fact that we can’t quite describe them, though, preserves the magic and mystery?

    1. I think so! In some way it keeps its magic that way.. If there’s a word for it then that must mean it’s common enough to have a word… so in a way not having a word makes it rare? Hmm…

  24. What an interesting story. So captivating I held my breath all through. I’d say you and Max were truly in sync. It happens…I wonder why the hesitation to see such person again. Is it the fear that things maybe awkward next time and not flow like it did previously? Instead one holds dear that cherished moments in one’s heart.

    1. I guess the hesitation came from normalising what was a really special evening… Would it lose its magic if I saw him again and rode in the carriage again and in that way turned them into not-once-in-a-lifetime events?

  25. What a truly mesmerising read. I know the feeling – also sort of nostalgic for that same feeling again when you think back on it. But also not. Keeping that seemingly perfect moment perfect.

  26. I think the word might be stained. The strangers you fall in love with make a stain on you. Their impact is like a patch in memory drive and every once in a while you recall those few counted moments. It’s like a stubborn stain. That doesn’t get off. That you don’t want to get off.

  27. I don’t think there’s a single word to describe what you were feeling, but there is one for your story: Amazing. This was one of the best, most enjoyable posts I’ve reads since I’ve been on WP. You have a gift. I felt I was right behind you and Max eavesdropping on your conversation or watching a movie with intent interest. Nice one Quinn. But you ruined the rest of my reading day. Everything else will pale compared to your story. I may as well skip WP today.

  28. When I’ve experienced this the feeling the sensation I would best compare it to is gliding. All the commotion of life allowing for a sudden moment of effortless momentum where I can simply drink in the humble yet extraordinary beauty of the world I’m moving through. If I had to give it a term it would be Zero Gravity, i.e. That night we had was zero gravity.

  29. It’s a great story! I loved the way you stayed on such a unique topic. I always find it interesting when I find a situation or a feeling that there just isn’t a word to.

  30. Thanks for sharing. I was glued to your story. That feeling comes sometimes and sometimes I do not even have to come close to the person… For some reason I get interested in them .
    Writing is an easier outlet

  31. Completely agree with you. Writing allows me to think more deeply about the message I’m trying to communicate. I’ve never been a natural born impromptu speaker either.

  32. There should be a word for that, but there won’t be. That feeling is irreplaceable and indescribable. I can’t imagine someone coming up with one word to describe all the wonderful feelings you felt in that moment.
    I loved you story, Quinn. I felt like I was with you & Max in your little tour in Vienna. Only a few people has the gift that you have. Please don’t ever stop writing, and thank you, WP, for bringing me to Quinn’s story.

  33. Fantastic story, loved reading it. I hope you discover the word. This brought back a rush of some similar memories for me, most often involving travel. Maybe the search for the word would start there. Alain de Botton might have something to say here. I suspect he might. And while you pointed out the platonic nature of it all, I couldn’t help but think a little of Before Sunrise.

  34. Speechless, your story was so captivating! Almost like digging into a short fairy tale, and i hope you never get a word to describe such bond. It shouldn’t exist.

    1. Thank you! That’s sort of what it felt like, honestly. A fairytale evening, with unexpected motorcycle leathers added to the mix.

  35. This just show’s how we are all connected together, how little events with strangers may leave the most profound feelings in us for the years to come. Your lovely story just shows how every small experience leaves the greatest impression on the years to come.

    1. It really does. It’s funny to think about how the same experience can stick (or not!) with different people. I wonder if Max even remembers it…

  36. I think in a situation like this, the risk is run of looking back in simple fondness or being hounded by what ifs. There are people, men and women that still cross my mind after many years. Once I saw a girl reading in the restaurant/bar that I frequent. I have occasionally brought a book with me as well, and all of my friends think it strange. But here she was, reading in the midst of her friends drinking. I felt we would be great friends, but I never approached her. That woman still crosses my mind and I have a soft spot for her though we never spoke a word. I do still feel a spot of regret that I didn’t go over and introduce myself.

    I feel that writing is one of the best things in my life. I’ve had journals for many years and work that I publish on my blog go through many hours of composing and editing. I love to edit. Move sentences around, decide on which words to use, change, which images and examples to insert. It’s soothing and stimulating at the same time.

  37. How beautiful and perfect it is ♥..completely awed by the moments..and also the best part is how beautifully u can give without asking or without getting it acknowledged. .we do and said a lot of things about a hell lot of people and thn we show off a relation and it died…
    I hope max is also reading this..I so hope fr this.
    God bless u this is definitely beyond words

    1. I haven’t seen this movie but it’s come up a couple of times in the comments here so I’m thinking I should give it a watch! Is it set in Vienna? All I know about it is that Ethan Hawke is in it and there was a relatively recent follow-up?

      1. Yes, it is set in Vienna and it’s about falling in love with a stranger. There are two sequels, the last of which came out in 2013 I think? They’re both great too.

  38. That was such an amazing story, if I had a night like that I’d have definitely fallen in love with him and probably would never have stopped thinking about that night 😅 It reminds be of the film Before Sunrise

    1. Somebody further up mentioned this same movie and now I’m thinking I will need to watch it! Thank you so much for reading – it’s a lovely memory to have and I’m glad people enjoyed my sharing it!

  39. I totally fell into this story, what a great time you must have had, I almost feel sorry for Max, I think he may have waited for you in that cafe on the wednesday looking out for you.

    1. I hope he didn’t, or if he did, I hope he didn’t wait too long. I hope if he does even remember our evening together he does it with fondness! I would hate to think I hurt him after he gave me such a lovely memory.

  40. Beautifully written. Your care with the description and tender emotions paints such a vivid picture that I could feel the experience as if it was my own aswelk. The word I use to describe such moments is SoulSync. When, even for a split second, your soul genuinely and vulnerably connections to another person and you both know you are seen, understood, and valued by the other. It’s a SoulSync moment you have allowed us to experience along side of you. Thank you!

  41. This was so beautiful and I hung on every word. One of the beauties about traveling is just this – falling in love with random strangers.
    Thank you so much for sharing! x

    1. Thank you for reading it Leigh! I agree, that is one of the best things about travel, although usually I think we’re too cautious to let these situations play out, especially these days!

  42. I have to say this was one of the most idyllic, enchanting articles I have read. I shouldn’t coin it romantic for this is completely different feeling altogether! Oh! Why don’t they have a name for this feeling. The stranger who charms you in her strange ways, your heart leaps out, you sense and feel nothing other than the presence of that stranger yet you are subtly aware that you aren’t going to see her again. These dates when a date is something we mull over so much, swiping left or right, dress up, do our hair, I miss the discovery of a stranger that deciding after a well carved plan!

    Truth be told I felt as though I were riding the carriage, through the streets of Vienna, listening to your conversations with Max! Ah!

  43. its amazing what you expressed is amazing the way you feel about a total strainger is wonderful its better to fall inlove with a strainger than fall in love with your friend xxx
    i think your talanted and you need to keep doing more xx

  44. It’s so beautifully written; as though I were sitting in the carriage, riding through the cobbled streets of Vienna, listening to your conversation.

    I so wish there was a word for the feeling you talk about. Drawn to a stranger, lost in the strangeness of the stranger also knowing that you shall never chance upon her again. Ah!

  45. Oh my god, this is so beautiful that I am, quite literally, crying. You so poignantly captured that moment of true connection with someone, when you begin to know them. We spend most of our lives searching for this, who knows how many chances have slipped through our fingertips? Thank you so very much for writing this. It touched my soul.

    1. Thank you so much for reading it, I’m glad it resonated with you. It’s such a powerful feeling when it happens, and all too rare. I think you have to hang on to those moments – even if it’s only in your memory – when they do happen.

  46. I don’t know who I’m more in love with: you, Max, or this incredibly dreamlike story. I know the feeling of the non-existent word you seek. I looked on Google, but to no avail. I’m sorry. I had a similar experience once, with an Arabic man in Geneva who spent an afternoon teaching me French. There really should be a word…I feel like there is one. As with so many parts of life, it’s out there, it’s just a matter of finding it 🙂

    One word that does describe you as well as myself: logophile.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience. I too, wonder what Max is up to. If he still goes to the coffee shop near the cathedral and like you, I hope tragedy has missed him in his life and that he is well.

    1. Oh thank you Celestial! I hope your Arabic gentleman still makes you smile when you think of the memory. I love that we can collide with strangers and spark an instant connection; it’s a lovely and rare and powerful part of life.

  47. What a lovely story! There’s something beautiful about a first meeting with a stranger. In a sense you have nothing to lose, so I’ve always found it strangely easier to talk to people I don’t/barely know than to talk to my closest friends. That connection – like you had with Max – is so beautiful and meaningful, regardless of how long it lasts.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. That’s true, especially abroad where you know nobody – you can be honest and vulnerable without worrying about it coming back to bite you. I mean, it’s probably a little more difficult now that facebook and social media exists, but it’s still true.

  48. What, a tear? *sobbing violently* Nope, no… I’m not crying… it must be my hay-fever.
    Seriously though, this was so beautifully written and emotive. Can’t wait to read more on your blog (which I only just discovered!)
    And I totally understand the grappling-for-words feeling, whilst sharing your experience of (imbalanced, albeit still) bilingualism. Sometimes, none of my words will fit. Sometimes they fit in a sentence of the wrong language. And sometimes, just sometimes, I am able to write a sentence that perfectly encapsulates what I wanted to communicate. You have done such a wonderful job of communicating raw emotion, even if you do still struggle for words on occasion.

    1. I didn’t mean to make anybody cry! I’m glad you liked it. Honestly most of my posts are not at all serious but sometimes I just want to write about a memory, or a feeling, or something that’s not particularly light-hearted. And then you get something like this! My blog is a hodge-podge.

      And yes! Sometimes the wrong language word fits into a sentence. I always find that frustrating! Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

  49. Honestly, this was such an inspiring read. I feel like I may consider being a little but more open with strangers. I mean, safety first…but your experience was, magical. Yeah, perfect word.
    Lovely article, thanks!

  50. This was so beautiful i almost cried. I genuinely felt like i was there experiencing these things. Feeling what you felt.
    I think the word honestly is soulmate. Not necessarily a romantic one but its like your soul recognizes him from a past life and you’re just trying to catch up with him in this life.

    1. Thank you Sade, maybe that’s what it is. It’s a strange, oddly satisfying feeling of things clicking into place with another human being!

  51. Wonderful, and I genuinely relate to your feeling, although I can’t say I find it frequently. I think curiosity may have killed the cat in my case though (I think I would have gone for breakfast with Max). It sounds like it was a fantasmic night though! I think I might try to combine the word quintessential with agape to try to describe this: agapequintel, quintessape, I don’t know. It doesn’t sound right.
    Speaking of searching for words I am currently on the hunt for a word from a dream: it felt yellow, like sunshine, almost a little too bright (I thought it might be serendipity but it just doesn’t feel quite right).

    1. Thank you Erika! I admit I was a little torn when it came to seeing him again but the evening had felt so magical I was afraid to ruin the memory by normalising it, if that makes sense… A word from a dream… sounds like a sun-dappled, hazy happiness!

    1. Somebody else suggested this word also and I googled it, and found the translation to be ‘longing’ or ‘desire’ … Is that the right translation? It’s a beautiful word, regardless!

  52. Such a wonderful story!! And you drew it out so well. Brava! There really should be a word for that sudden enrapturing curiosity about a person you’ve just met. In yiddish you can say “naim meod” which is more like “it feels very comfortable to meet you.” Maybe that’s the catalyst of what you felt – a comfortableness with a total stranger, the kindred spirits meeting. Though how to call the the rest of it is a mystery (but if you name it, perhaps it would be less enchanting!). ☺️

  53. Wow that was beautiful written! I totally get the feeling and have experienced it sometimes myself. It is one of the most beautiful feelings ever. It always reminds me that there are still good and beautiful people out there. Sometimes we just should look a little better.

    1. Yes, exactly Suzanne. I’m as guilty of it as anybody – a lot of the time I shy away from interactions with strangers out of fear or discomfort – but when I feel comfortable (safe!) with a stranger and take the time to talk I rarely regret it!

  54. Reblogged this on A little sweet A little sour and commented:
    those moments one wishes they could go back to but at the same time don’t want to because it wouldn’t be as magic as the first time.

  55. Hey! I think on some level I had that nameless, wordless thing for you. But you know that’s not creepy at all. I feel like we label everything we have today. We need to name it all. Even you wanted to name this feeling! But there are so many beautiful and surreal feelings in this world that are meant to be just that… Feelings. And its so lovely to see that you’ve completely felt it. Thank you for sharing this quinn..

    1. I definitely think it’s important to stay safe, but I also think going with your gut sometimes leads you to interesting places you wouldn’t have gone otherwise!

  56. What a beautiful story, beautifully written. Though I’ve never had a connection quite like you describe with Max, there have been many over the years of travel where you just connect with someone who you know is from your own tribe: a man we met in Bali, talked with for a couple of hours, and will probably never see again, but we still keep in touch.
    Alison

  57. Beautiful story–a bit of kismet; a bit of recognizing someone from a past life and reconnecting in this current one. It is a hard feeling to label–but it is real! Thanks for sharing.

  58. A beautiful story, and equally beautiful writing used to tell it. I don’t know what I’d call it. Maybe a shooting star through the heart: a beautiful sight while it lasts, but it is fleeting and fades quickly. But you never forget it.

  59. Beautifully written story, just a snapshot in time. Maybe one day, you can go back to the café on a Wednesday to see if Max still goes there. When you are older, there might be more there to explore. I am sure that he still thinks of you and smiles as he drives his carriage. A wonderful adventure!

  60. Quinn!! I’ve never sensed that the urge to know someone is actually a kind of partial love…but next time I meet a stranger, I’m sure to fall in love, and the only part responsible for it is your lovely story. Awesome work!!

  61. Hello I really loved this story and it really gives you a since of connection I feel is the word thank you for sharing and I am new and if you checked out my website it would mean the world to me!

    1. Thank you bluebird! I tried to visit your blog but it is coming up empty for me? Leave a link for me and I’ll check it out!

  62. The story was just magical. Great read….
    and the word you are searching for is Magic. Because this reality with the light of illusion is just magic…..

    1. Thank you Jeeno, I’m glad you’ve had them too and it’s not just me being an oddball having unusually intimate moments with strangers!

      1. I used to think that before talking to my therapist! You see, I ‘m married with 2 kids and I thought that there was something wrong with me! My therapist said that people like us are born appreciative of the good in everything and everyone! And that we are : CLEVER! 😁

          1. Ha! No not necessarily! I don’t have a therapist for feeling half in love with strangers! I just happened to mention it to her! You can ignore that line in the notes!!

  63. Reblogged this on Before25 and commented:
    This is simply amazing ….lots of lessons to pick from the article that’s been beautifully crafted

    1. Maybe… although I feel true infatuation would have had me sitting at that cafe come Wednesday morning! A sort of temporary infatuation, maybe…

  64. Wow! I admit that I’m a bit of a romantic, but your story, Quinn, almost brought me to tears twice. I’ve haven’t read something so moving in years! You are amazing! You have an incredible gift! Thank you for sharing it. BTW… As a man, I can assure you, Max remembers and still thinks about this night just as vividly and fondly as you have described it.

    1. Thanks Lane (only getting to these comments now!) – I wonder if he does. I wonder if he even remembers it. It’s strange how two people can experience the same situation very differently…

  65. Reblogged this on The Hard Mattress and commented:
    “I pried further into his life on the carriage ride to wherever we were going. He told me about his last girlfriend and how long they had been together and how it had ended. He told me about the food that brought back childhood memories for him, and how he had spent his birthday. At one point, clattering over cobblestones on a dimly lit, empty street, he nudged my thigh with his hand.
    “What?”
    “You want?”
    His hand opened slightly, offering me the reins.
    “Me? I can’t! Max, I’ll crash your carriage.”
    He nodded insistently and put the reins in my hands.”
    – Quinn
    I’m not sure what to add because Quinn described it perfectly. We all have that one or two particular strangers that we accidentally meet along the way. On our way home, idyllic thoughts over a hot train ride. Standing side-by-side, awkward turn that sends a curve of both you, and the stranger’s lips.
    ‘Hi’
    and he ‘Hi’ back.
    Refusing to break that awkward starter, ‘Guess the air-conditioners aren’t working.’
    Reluctantly he replied, ‘Yeah, sorry if I smell bad. I sweat easily.’
    Made you smile. ‘All of us you mean. We are basically packed like sardines, and its a hot night.’
    He laughed. ‘I bet! On your way home?’
    And it continues until one of you reaches our destinations. Leaps off the train, knowing that you will never see each other again. A quick goodbye is all you need.

  66. I have no words. I’m just glad I discovered you today Quinn. The way you write… It’s phenomenal, enchanting and beautiful. I find myself standing in Vienna, watching as you and Max walk through the night air, lost in your little bubble. It’s a delight.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad I could transport you if only for a few minutes. It’s a special memory of mine and it’s nice to know I was able to share it, even if only in a small way!

  67. Such a word needs to exist. If none exists in English or Spanish, then invent one. Use it often and everyone will learn it.
    Thank you for sharing such an exciting and vulnerable moment with us. Thank you for allowing us a peek into your beautiful soul.

    1. Thank you! I’m sorry I made you cry but glad it was with happiness! I hope you click with a stranger one day – it’s a special feeling!

  68. You put into words what I feel and think about quite often. My job demands social interaction with new people everyday… which is a daily challenge for an introvert. Catching me off guard and sometimes surprising me with delight, I feel a similar connection to these strangers that you descibed in this post. Beautifully written, Quinn!

    1. I am also an introvert so these moments always catch me by surprise! They don’t happen often for me though, thankfully! I’m not sure my heart could handle it!

  69. Quinn, thank you for writing with such emotion! I’ve traveled to different parts of the world, and have experienced similar attachment. There is something innate in the human soul that drives deep connection, even with strangers. I doubt many of us are meant to live solitary lives. These are the things that drive my wanderlust. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you for reading it, Wishweed! I agree with you that we’re meant to connect, but the instant clicking into place is something that only happens to me once in a while. It’s always a pleasant – if slightly unsettling – surprise!

  70. This one of the best reads in a long time. I am a pathetic romantic and dreamer. This post made me love Max within the first few minutes.. Please tell me you will go meet Max one day. Maybe when you are way older,you return to Vienna and find him in that coffee shop on a Wednesday.
    I promise if I ever go to Vienna I will look out for him 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful memory.

    1. Hahaha thank you Aleena! I actually had another moment like this (where my soul seemed to click into place with somebody else’s) years after this, and this time I didn’t let it disappear in one night… I hope you have many romantic moments in your life!

  71. I love this. I know what you mean about kind of wishing that you would never see that person again, because it/they/you just wouldn’t be the same. The context of time and place is everything, especially with a chance encounter.

  72. I LOVE this! I love especially the part where you describe why you prefer writing to talking – it’s like if you were speaking for me!! That’s EXACTLY how I feel about writing. I always miss the point when talking, especially something I really want to get right, usually gets into a completely wrong direction.. or maybe not, but I am just never sure if the ‘receiver’ got the message I was trying to deliver. With writing it’s different – as you say, with writing I have time to think and I, too, am always looking for the right words which feels extremely satisfying. Wow, such a good feeling to find I am not the only one who feels this way and there are actually ‘souls’ like me 🙂 Wonderful read altogether! Keep up the great work, I sure will be back for more!

    1. Yes, that is EXACTLY what happens to me Monika! Verbal communication is not my strong suit, and God help me if you put me in front of a crowd! Thank you so much for reading and also for letting me know ‘There are DOZENS of us!’ as they say!

    1. Thank you! And go easy on the caffeine! My housemate is probably seven tenths pure black coffee and I have no idea how he’s still alive!

  73. An absolutely stunning post. I want to say I’d read a book where this was just the beginning but really, much like the evening you had with Max, it’s perfect the way it is. You have a new follower!

  74. This is me. EVERYDAY! I love just connecting with others and learning everything about them. It’s my favorite thing to do. There SHOULD be a word for this!

  75. A sort of ephemeral infatuation maybe? Similar to that of a holiday romance? Or maybe its more to do with an emotion in transit? Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed this post and your writing. And now I am overthinking those odd feelings that have no defined word.

  76. “It feels more accurate somehow than speaking words. Talking for me can sometimes feel like playing tennis with a colander; I mean, it’s possible, I can do it, but it’s not ideal.” – Never have truer words been spoken. Love it!! And a gorgeous blog post. Now I’m wondering what Max is up to…

    1. Thank you Amber! I hope wherever Max is he’s content and having a wonderful Saturday night (and is unaware that he was written about… that would be awkward)!

  77. Oh yes. How lovely.
    I experienced the same thing for the first time in my life in March. A guy I met in Dubai for 4 days at a dance festival. Its been almost 7 weeks, and I still have vivid dreams of him. I refer to that s falling in love with him, but as you say – thats not quite true, nor exactly what happened: I just connected. Completely and perfectly. And then its done. And it makes me so happy and so sad at the same time.
    https://discoveringratchet.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/a-tale-of-4-days/

      1. I haven’t fully let go. In this day and age of social media, it’s hard. I just don’t know.
        So much happiness. It’s hard not to want to keep that always. But some things really do have expiry dates.

        1. It’s always hard to know where the tipping point is of investing too much time/effort. I do think social media has made it much, much harder to let things go; how can you move on when you still have a window into their life? It’s so hard.

          1. So hard indeed. Yet a silver lining I’ve found is that by having that window, it stops the memories from totally fading away, and it reminds me that such connections, with their happiness, wonderment and joy, are real and possible. They aren’t a nostalgic myth. I must seek similar moments in MY every day life. Seeing his pics and face pop up in my Fbk newsfeed reminds me not to settle for anything less.

            (It just took me about 8 weeks to get to that point of healthy almost-letting go. 4 days of actual interaction vs 8 weeks of quasi-grieving the end of a short perfect chapter in my life. OYE.)

          2. So. Work is sending me to his country (france) in mid june. So I decided to take a few extra vacation days, and I told him that I was going to visit his city (legit has always been on my bucket list), and that I hoped we could meet up.

            Not only was he pleased, but he suggested I attend a dance festival the following weekend, where he and his dance partern would be teaching. Nimes.

            So yeah.

            My story is about to diverge from yours with Max. I did not let this one go, apparently.

            SO EXCITED.

  78. I loved this! I’m a romantic at heart and there was definitely a feeling of romance in this story. But the cautious part of me kept thinking, “Is she crazy? She’s a stranger in a strange land and he could be an axe murderer!” I’m glad to see it all turned out well 🙂

    1. Hahaha I was wondering if anybody would pick up on that! Yes, in hindsight it was an extremely rash series of decisions and I was lucky that Max was a gentleman and not (as you rightfully pointed out could have been the case) an axe-murderer, but at the same time there’s a lot to be said for gut instinct! I’ve written before about bad experiences with strangers so I have extricated myself from questionable moments once or twice. Not all strangers can be a Max, I suppose…

  79. I’m in love with the moment, the human connection. Maybe it’s my narcissistic need for validation. Or theirs. Either way, I relate, therefore, enjoyed the read. Basically the same thing you said about writing applies right now, though I might not have realized until me actually writing this ..my back-brain kept thinking “you like writing, maybe this is why you’re so texty” and “f that guy that called you out on that” along side “I wonder what he’s doing right now..” Focus is not my forte…

    1. Thank you Kate Louise! Focus is not my forte either, and that’s pretty obvious in everything I do… including this blog! Where I hop from topic to topic with zero warning! It’s fine though. Just tell yourself variety is the spice of life! Ha!

  80. I loved this! I think it’s fascinating how some of our most memorable experiences are found in circumstances and people that are fleeting and temporary, but maybe that’s the beauty in it. Great piece!

    1. Yes. Biko, in a way I guess that could be said about life itself; what makes it beautiful is that it’s fleeting and temporary in the grand scheme of things. I guess we just have to be mindful of the fact and grateful for the good things! Thanks for reading it!

  81. I have a word in mind. Actually a director’s name in mind HAHAHA Linklater as in Richard Linklater. This reminds me a lot about his movie Before Sunrise 😀

  82. I had a very similar experience with a bassist i locked eyes with at a leann rimes concert. just a couple of hours but i fell hard. Im a forgotten memory while he tours and plays with famous artists. I almost think i connected more than he did. Sigh. Life can be cruel sometimes.

    1. You don’t know! Maybe some nights he closes his eyes to go to sleep and sees your face. It’s strange how situations affect different people…!

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  84. That was so beautifully written… and a very beautiful experience. I’ve never quite had anything on the scale of that, but definitely on a smaller scale. I often find myself fascinated with people, and wanting to connect – especially if I meet them by chance. I don’t think you could have put it any better: ‘what led to their presence next to me in that particular moment, out of the 7 billion other people in the world’. That I often wonder, and I think I, too, am in love with connections from human to human – who they are, where they could lead you. I think sometimes I am too tempted to skip the dull small talk and just know them.
    But I thought this was a very lovely post, well done.

  85. Hey Quinn…..your lines and the flow is simply amazing. I could literally see the entire sequence flash in front of my eyes as if I was watching a Movie. 🙂 Thank you for posting this experience of yours.