Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger,

I’m willing to bet you don’t remember me. I’ve got to admit I barely remember you; you’re a fuzzy image of a big black duffle bomber jacket and a scared expression. God, I don’t even remember how old I was when we met.

I had been out for a meal with my family, to the local pizza express that night. I don’t remember much of the meal as what happened after stood out much more for me. We were walking back home, the short five minute walk from town it must have been about 10 when you approached us. You asked if we knew of any internet café’s that would be open, I remember I was young enough to grab my Dad’s hand in a nervous childlike irrational fear.

We told you there weren’t any internet café’s we were aware of in Darlington, let alone any that would be open at 10 at night. You thanked us and we went our separate ways.

We’d got about half a street away when my little brother asked, “Why don’t we let the man come to our house and use our computer?” My parents being my parents immediately agreed and off we went to find you.

Once we found you, one look and I wasn’t scared anymore, but you were. You were on the phone to your mum and you were crying. That’s when you told us your story, you were from Africa, you’d flown to Newcastle and got the train to Darlington. From Darlington you were meant to catch a bus to London in order to get a plane to Canada to join the army, except you had to print off your bus ticket and the machine at the station hadn’t worked. You were terrified, trapped in a small town in the North of England with little money and no way out. We took you home.

I remember the minute you sat down at the computer, got up your ticket and that was the first time I’d seen you smile. I made you a cup of tea which was probably terrible, sorry for that and we stayed up until midnight listening to your stories and telling our own. Your bus was at 1am so my dad walked you down and us kids went to bed.

I knew when you left that I’d never see you again. I don’t think I ever found out where in Africa you’re from or even your name. But I hope you’re okay, I hope you made it to Canada and I hope you’re happy. I also hope you were never deployed into conflict. I hope you stayed in Canada safe and that eventually you were discharged and made it back home to your family. I really wish I could find out if this is so.

I also hope you remember us, this English family who lent you their printer and the little girl who made you that terrible cup of tea.

Love, that little girl.

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