The Stranger

By Talia M. Blatt

Strange Homecomings

It is finally Thanksgiving — a time to celebrate and express gratitude for our most familiar faces. And yet, as per usual, I’m thinking about strangers.

I got coffee this past weekend with two of my closest friends from high school. We all stayed home this fall, but hadn’t seen one another much — school accelerated, as did the pandemic. Aside from our masks and the distance between our chairs, I felt as though I was catching a glimpse of some non-pandemic alternative universe, where we were just old friends home from college, catching up.

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A One-Way Conversation with Tocqueville

French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville traveled around the United States in the mid-19th century, meeting with prisoners and politicians alike, and writing observations about American culture and governance that would become his two-volume work “Democracy in America.”

Tocqueville prized the conversations he had as a stranger in a strange land: “The stranger often learns by the hearth of his host important truths, that the latter would perhaps conceal from a friend; with the stranger you ease the burden of a forced silence; you are not afraid of his indiscretion because he is passing through.”

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Zoomers and Boomers

Knowing somebody’s coffee order is one of my favorite litmus tests for familiarity.

By my freshman year of college, I had his order memorized: a small black coffee and a cinnamon bagel, with peanut butter on the side. When we met for the last time before quarantine, I ordered for him; he paid.

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Why You Can Have Your Vote and Protest it Too

The man on the phone was aggressively blasé, as I suppose is wont for many millennials. But after hearing dozens of answering recordings, I began to feel like a machine myself, an automaton mechanically entering phone numbers and clicking buttons on a screen. I craved the sound of breathing; I was grateful even for hostility, because it meant a human was on the other side.

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Ranked-Choice Voting from 30,000 Feet

In early January of this year, before 2020 became something like an open wound, I was on a flight back to Boston from Washington, D.C.

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