Perfect Strangers

Mark Hodgetts
5 min readMar 28, 2022

I never really knew you and that is to my eternal shame.

There are no excuses. I was weak and scared and had hidden away in a near-impenetrable fortress of my own making.

I remember thinking that you were the most beautiful person that I had ever met, but I never told you. If I did, I dared to be vulnerable and I wasn’t ready. I had done that once before with another and that had ended in heartbreak and utter humiliation. So, I hid behind the mask of indifference and played the role of drunken idiot a little too well.

Nearly every day we crossed paths and each day we did, we tiptoed around each other, exchanging small talk and little else. Each time we did, I went through a process of choking the life out of what I so desperately wanted to say to you. Then, at least once a week I’d look your phone number up. Sometimes I even picked up the receiver, but I never dialled. If we met socially, I froze. Just like the rabbits in Watership Down, I went tharn as your light approached. This happened on more than one occasion and you must have thought me odd at best but more likely rude and arrogant. Maybe I imagined the hurt in your eyes, but I don’t think so.

I’m sorry that I was an asshole. Those memories have haunted me as I poked and prodded them for nearly forty years. At times I tell myself that I did you a favour by not intruding on anything other than the fringes of your life because if the truth be told, the half-formed stunted dwarf of my personality was not fit to be in your presence. At some level, I thought that then and perhaps accept it now but I can’t help but wonder about you, where you are and if you’re happy.

I danced this charade with you for at least six years and every day I built the wall a little higher and the darkness within my soul grew a little darker. I hid my confusion, growing anger and burgeoning depression behind a never-ending alcohol-fuelled half-life that took no prisoners and filled the emptiness in me with white noise. You weren’t the reason for my slow self demolition, in fact, you may well have been the antidote, but my self-esteem was too low to consider that we were even a possibility.

My very own self inflicted shit show couldn’t last forever. Something had to give. One day I woke up and realised that my lifestyle was killing my very soul. I had allowed all my goals, aspirations and dreams to slip through my fingers and I was managing to alienate a growing number of my friends. The rising feeling of panic within me forced me to the realisation that I had to change something and change it quickly or I would continue sliding into the abyss.

There were two options. The harder one would have involved rearranging, my life and at least trying to build a proper relationship with you. The easy option was to simply run away. I took the easy one because that’s who I was — still a scared little man who couldn’t let anyone see the real me.

So, I asked for a transfer in my employment to literally anywhere else. It happened quickly, as I knew it would. I had four weeks to make the move and things moved pretty damn fast. I saw you at least a dozen times in those four weeks and each time I nearly told you of my plans. I didn’t because I was afraid, so afraid that the dam wall would burst and you would see me as I really was — a damaged lost soul drowning in a whirlpool of rage and self-pity grasping at one last straw.

My last memory of you is on my final day at work in Belmont. We waved to each other and looked away as we often did. I looked back and stole another glimpse of you standing in the queue. You were staring into the middle distance. There was a sadness about you that I’d never seen before and I wanted to go to you, but I didn’t. I hate that memory. I hate that I never said goodbye and I hate that perverse part of me that whispered “It’s better this way — she’s way too good for you.”

I’ve never seen you again although your name and the memory of your face is always there floating in my subconscious, ready to rise unbidden to the surface as it often does when I listen to certain songs that I associated with you then and still do now.

Lines in Perfect Strangers do it every time

Sensitive to Lighta typical Rainbow riff rocker about a girl who shines too brightly for the guy to dare approach, guts me.

And the whole of Soldier of Fortune by Deep Purple brings me to my metaphoric knees.

Leaving Geelong allowed me to breathe. It gave me time to heal the scars that prevented me from reaching you. I learned to laugh with my heart rather than my head and I learned to forgive and even like myself a little. Finally, in time, I learned to love. I guess you could say that I “made it.” Except, I never did — not really. Because I’ve never let the memory of you go and that’s unfair to those who love me and whom I love back. I still have walls around me — things I do not and cannot share with others and so I suffer my sorrow in silence

Sometimes I go looking for you on social media, wondering if your life is full and good. I see the odd photo but otherwise, draw a blank. It’s probably better that way. Life is complicated enough. You are a ghost of a memory to me, a love never lost nor won, forever out of reach and forever kept close by a memory of sitting in your kitchen, sipping your coffee, patting your dog and being utterly astonished by the beauty that radiated from your being.

I’m sorry that I never told you and I’m sorry that you’ll probably never read this. They are my crosses to carry. They are all of my own making, and I suspect I will carry them to my grave.

I hope you are happy. You deserve to be. You were beautiful. I guess you still are because true beauty is never lost.

To my mind, we are and always will be Perfect Strangers and now must remain so, separated by choices made long ago.




Mark Hodgetts

Freelance writer, musician, non — aligned political junkie, all round pain in the arse