How to Talk to Strangers

Hello Mr. Magazine - - NEWS - Text by Bryan Wash­ing­ton Let­ter­ing by Stephen Grace

Be white. If you’re not white, be well-spo­ken. Enun­ci­ate. Have a bach­e­lor’s, a mas­ter’s, an engi­neer­ing de­gree in progress. Spend the time you aren’t us­ing to pursue an engi­neer­ing de­gree in record stores, bookstores, taque­rias. Buy books reg­u­larly, but never at full price. Use the money you save on an on­line dat­ing sub­scrip­tion. Find a cof­fee shop in mid­town. Walk there daily. Ob­serve the oc­cu­pants be­hind a novel you’ll never read. Tip well. Spend the money you still haven’t tipped with on more cof­fee. When the stranger across from you looks up from his Wise Blood, his Fader, his One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, run a hand over your brow. Keep the other one on your cof­fee. Come back to this cof­fee shop daily, around the same time. Wait for the afore­men­tioned stranger. Learn lit­tle things about him. Learn that he’s at­tend­ing the col­lege up the road. Learn that he treats him­self to pas­tries on week­ends. Learn that he’s fa­mil­iar with the gin­ger barista, the one you haven’t tipped, the one who fucks your name up. Imag­ine said gin­ger walk­ing over to your ta­ble and ask­ing for a synop­sis of the book in your hands. Learn that your stranger screens his calls. Learn that your stranger’s Span­ish is poor. Learn that your stranger is lac­tose in­tol­er­ant, that he smokes Camel mints, that he is at least ca­su­ally in­ter­ested in Manch­ester United. Spend your tip­ping money on stream­ing ser­vices. When the con­nec­tion at your place breaks down – the way ev­ery­one’s con­nec­tion in your com­plex breaks down be­cause the su­per knows his Latins and blacks won’t phone the boss to straighten it out – don’t let it ruf­fle you. Wait an hour, maybe two. Find poorly writ­ten ro­man­tic come­dies and watch them on your lap­top, in sweat­pants, in the evenings. Watch Jen­nifer Love He­witt and Jen­nifer Lopez and Jen­nifer Lawrence fall in and out of love

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