This is not a story about you. This is a story about the man you fell in fascination with. His name, he says, is Dave S. Strider. Your name is not important, because this is a story told by many people, and it will be told by many more.
You were one night at a seedy bar in Texas.
You were a concert in Mississippi.
A month in California.
Four months in Japan.
A week in Thailand.
One wild weekend in Sydney.
And so on.
Gas stations, bars, clubs, art galleries and museums, music stores, pawn shops, a hundred other slice-of-life locations. He caught your eye somewhere and changed your life somehow, from waiting in line at a theater to a relationship with the man you were positively certain was The One, you little dreamer you. He is a wanderer, an aimless renegade, a tan, wiry man with ginger hair and eyes to match. Most of you never see past his sunglasses however. Most of you who do are just lucky enough to catch him unaware, never fortunate enough to be trusted.
He guards his trust obsessively, some of you learn, hoards his secrets like precious gemstones. It is one of his many birdlike qualities.
You're a housemate in Wales watching him sketch carrion birds on his tablet. Highly stylized, incredible skill, his mouth tight at the corners with irritation.
You're a girl at a gas station, on a road trip with your family in Arizona, watching him pick a dead crow up off the highway, his hands so very still.
You're a veteran limping through a park in Maryland, sitting down to rest your aching leg, staying longer than you meant to just to watch him take pictures of birds flying overhead.
You're eight years old in Canada, cradling your broken finger and crying, when he touches your shoulder, makes you a splint out of a popsicle stick and his shoelace, walks you home.
In Oregon, you ask him if he's the D. Strider, the up-and-coming movie producer who knows how to boggle every mind, make every jaw drop.
In Florida, you ask him if he's the D. Strider, the famed roboticist who perfected AI when he was just thirteen.
You are drunk and horny and alone in a strange bar, which is how you summon up the courage to ask if he's the D. Strider, the guy who revolutionized puppet porn.
He just smirks and says Nope, sorry, you got the wrong Strider.
A day walking the Great Wall of China.
Three months in the Philippines.
He sits on the edge of the bed, hunched over his camera, hot orange sunset burning through the blinds. He's got his jeans on again, but his shirt is still hanging from the doorknob. You don't say anything, stay so still you forget to breathe, and you admire his back.
You are not the first. You will not be the last.
Nice tattoo, you say.
Thanks, he says.
The little blip of his camera goes quiet. I learned how to fly when I was thirteen.
He twists around, cups your chin. Thanks for the pictures.
He's gone before you can say a word.
Three days in Chicago.
At the pool, you admire his breaststroke. Takes to water like a fish, he does, though with those shoulders that's no surprise. In the flickering blue light his scars are stark against his skin.
How did you get those scars?
He laughs. Which ones?
You touch the vertical slit on his sternum, it's twin on his spine. The slant marring one of his orange tattoos. The ugly horizontal grin across his stomach.
Oh, those ones.
He hoists himself out of the pool, sits dripping on the edge with his feet dangling in the water. Rough childhood.
How the hell did you survive those?
Maybe I didn't.
Don't say that kind of stuff.
You never see him again.
A train ride through the Rocky Mountains.
His sunglasses slipped down the sharp angle of his nose as he slept. You sketched two pages of his face before the car bounced on the rails, jerking him awake. One brief, astonishing second, eyes the brightest shade of orange peel you'll ever see in your life blinked the sleepiness away. The second, his shades are back in place and he looks out the window. You never learn his name.
You were two months in Rainbow Falls, New York.
This is fucked up, Rose.
We are seriously fucked up people.
Have you told--
I haven't either.
Rose, we need to stop.
I hate your Seer shit sometimes.
Fifteen minutes in Wyoming.
Excuse me mister, can I take a picture of you?
Only if I can take one of you first.
An evening watching a meteor shower.
I wear my sunglasses at night~
Yeah, yeah. He doesn't take them off.
A four-day cruise in the Caribbean.
A two-hour hitchhike in Tennessee.
A minor car accident in Germany.
A fellow tourist through the Diamond Caverns of Kentucky.
One of eight people whose lives he saved in Alaska.
And so on.
Dave S. Strider has three brothers he rarely mentions. If you get him to talk about his childhood beyond a few vague wisecracks--an impressive feat itself--he will always skip a few years and never tell you why. He has three friends he rarely sees but stays in contact with. His phone goes off eight times during a play before you finally get him to turn it off. He doesn't wear a watch but always knows what time it is. Sometimes, if you manage to get the jump on him, he makes a sound exactly like a startled crow.
Once, you swore you saw him levitate, scuffed up shoes a full three inches off the ground.
He has a lot of nightmares. Talks in his sleep sometimes, says Bro, Bro, voice cracking like he's thirteen. Sometimes he doodles heads of sharp-teethed people with horns. When you ask, he says he had a weird dream a long time ago that's stuck with him all this time.
In Norway he gets drunk and starts crying. We saved this whole fucking universe and nobody fucking knows. He never tells you what he meant.
He collects Japanese swords, mostly katana and tachi, or that's what he tells you. You don't know shit all about swords. Turns out he's straight up deadly with them though. He's fast as fuck and stronger than he looks. One day he shows you his prized sword, a katana the same color as his eyes. It's warm, almost hot to the touch, and the hilt--It's called tsuka, c'mon now, I told you already--is weirdly pliable. Like skin.
A week in Maple Valley, Washington.
Leaving already? Man, you just got here!
Got places to be, Egbert.
Yeah right, you big liar. You just hate staying anywhere for more than a couple months.
You been talking to Rose again?
Yes. She's worried about you!
Pft, like she can't just ogle me any time she pleases. Hey, let go of me.
Dave, you don't have to run away. You know that, right?
I'm not running from shit.
Wait, come on, Dave's coming up from Hollywood in a couple weeks. He told me you guys haven't talked in like a year.
Wait--oh you asshole, I can fly too you know!
Race you to the airport.
Gah, fine! If I win I'm dragging your orange butt back. You haven't even seen Jane yet!
You seriously didn't just bet on a speed contest with a Strider, did you?
Five months on a tiny island far out in the Pacific Ocean.
Hey Jade--oof. Easy on the hugs there, I've been on a plane for thirteen hours.
Come on, I've got breakfast ready!
How'd you know I was coming?
I like to check up on you. Now quit walking so slow! Jaspers kept me up all night asking about you!
His name is Dave S. Strider. He's a wanderer, a man with too many lines in his face and too many scars on his body. His hands are heavily calloused. He rarely smiles. He wears plain, durable clothing and worn out boots that have grass from three continents stuck in the tread. Only things you couldn't even tear from his cold, dead hands are his shades, a circular green pendant, and a thick stack of letters from the people who know him best.
You are not one of them.