Strangers’ Laughter

I step out of our house just after sunset, and a crescent moon hangs over the road — a silent slice of gleaming beauty in a dark blue sky. By then, I’ve been on a school board call for hours, and I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that what appears to be illusion at times — this strange, Hollywood-squares conversation — will shake out in ways that affect people’s lives directly: adults’ livelihoods, kids’ educations.

Although it’s five on a Friday, there’s not much traffic in town. In the little neighborhoods where I walk, no one is out. Against one maple tree, I see two plastic red sleds propped against the trunk.

As I round a corner, I hear laughter. I pause for a moment in the twilight, listening. A row of adults is bundled in coats and hats, sitting on a porch, talking and laughing. The cold air is wet with tomorrow’s approaching snow.

I’m no stranger to Vermont’s long winters, but mid-January 2021, and such a deep loneliness has set in — not just in my house, not just in my town, but spread ubiquitously. I stand under that gleaming sliver of moon, listening to the laughter of strangers. For the moment, I’m utterly stunned by the unexpected bliss of the moment, the sheer luck I have to be standing here, part of this shifting world.

“I don’t like ironing, but it reminds me that once, long, long ago, there was a semblance of order in the world.”

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

2 comments

  1. I just read this out loud to my daughter. We’re in front of the fire after a walk in the snow–drying out wet pant-legs and adjusting to the power outage that happened while we walked. I love your ability to weave a few threads of daily life into a deeper meaning. Here’s to overheard laughter.

  2. The cold, the dark, the isolation, it’s all really haunting right now. Love that you got to hear that laughter. I envision people, just sick of being stuck inside alone, asking their friends to bundle up and come chat for a few on the porch.

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