I see strangers every time I leave my apartment. Unfortunately, I know most of them.

Not all of them, of course; most strangers are, naturally, estranged. There are those few, though, that have appeared somewhere in my conscience. This doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, but it’s not quite that simple. I know what my neighbors (strangers) look like. I know what the waitress at the Italian restaurant down the street looks like as she takes the 7:05 train every morning into work. Their appearance has been filed into my mind. It’s the ones who aren’t filed, manila folders scattered on the floor, that I found to be worrying.

I don’t know who they are or where they come from. It’s constant and a minor annoyance; one of these strangers as a character in my brain’s grand opera happens about one of every 15 natural, regular old strangers. I know I know them from somewhere, and they have absolutely no idea.

I can’t begin to characterize the reasons I know these strangers so well. I’ve probably seen them in the same exact spot, on the same clockwork routine, and forgotten about it; therefore the file is thus unfiled. Maybe they look similar to a stranger I’ve placed. It takes just that one degree of cloudy separation. But I usually don’t forget things. City life is a constant sensory overload that my file sorting can’t work fast enough.

I’ve never seen you before. But I have seen you before.

I want to grab them. I want to shout across the street and greet them as one of my close friends in the never-ending waltz of my cloudy brain. I want to guess where I know them and see, humorously, if I’m right. I know I won’t be but imagine if I was! Maybe they’re recurring characters in my dreams, waiting to reappear when I fall asleep.

It makes for terrible pickup lines as well. “Did you, by any chance, and I know you didn’t, go running along this portion of park drive for 13 minutes two-and-a-half weeks ago?” No, of course they didn’t. Any sane human marks it as a slip of the tongue and tries to ignore my precipitous single-sided staring contest. Most of the time I’m just happy I found the often-cluttered path from my brain to my mouth.

Off I go, questions unanswered, this folder unfiled, only flipped over. Then I wonder if it’s my brain, my tongue, or my vision that needs serious work.