In my twenties, I got stranded in NYC. Well, not really stranded; my folks lived there. But I lived in Austin, TX. Being poor, I had to take the bus.
I get to the Port Authority (NYC’s central bus depot) and have a while to wait. I go outside and start milling about. The area around the PA is a bit shady, even today, but was much worse then (early 90′s.)
A man walked up to me, perhaps in his forties. If not homeless, he looked like he was working on it. He asked me about my hair wrap — colored embroidery floss braided into a length of my hair — and reached up to touch it. I drew back and started away. He walked after me. There were enough people about that I found the courage to turn around and demanded, “WHAT!?!”
He was startled. He looked around a little bit, and then, meekly, “Man, I need some help.”
“Look, man, I really don’t…”
He interrupted me, “I don’t know how to write.”
I was caught off-guard, “Pardon?”
“I haven’t seen my daughter in six years. I just got her address and want to try and talk to her, but I don’t know how to write,” he went on, “and she lives in Augusta.”
“Okay, got a pen?”
Ten minutes later, with a ‘borrowed’ pen, we’re sitting on a bench. He’s ranting streams of conscience sentences that would run on and on and seemingly jump back and forth in time with lengthy descriptions of places he’s been, things he’s seen and that time when he was being chased by the cops and…
Looking down at the pad, I had the young woman’s name and a comma.
Finally, I said, “I think I have plenty to go on. How about I work on it and I’ll read it to you when I’m done, okay?”
He agreed, and we sat quietly, except for a few questions I had.
Because I’d be on the road for forty-four hours, I’d brought provisions. It was still morning, and I had a corn muffin with me. I reached into my bag, pulled it out, unwrapped it and broke it in half, absently offering my new friend the other half. He took it and thanked me.
I went on writing. After a bit, I looked over to see him with his hands in his lap, looking blankly at the muffin half. Then, a single tear.
I asked what was wrong.
He said, in that way that people who are crying talk with food in their mouth, “No one’s ever been this nice to me.”
We both sat there and quietly cried for a while.
It crushed me that such a simple act of kindness was the nicest thing anyone had done for this poor guy.
Go out and perform a simple act of kindness. It could change someone’s life.
On certain Sundays in November when the weather bothers me
I empty drawers of other summers where my shadows used to be
She is standing by the water as her smile begins to curl,
In this or any other summer, she is something all together different
Never just an ordinary girl.
And in the evenings on Long Island when the colors start to fade
She wears a silly yellow hat that someone gave her when she stayed
I didn’t think that she returned it, we left New York in a whirl
Time expands and then contracts when you are spinning in the grips of someone
Who is not an ordinary girl.
And when you sleep you find your mother in the night but she stays just out of sight
So there isn’t any sweetness in the dreaming
And when you wake the morning covers you with light and it makes you feel alright
But it’s just the same hard candy you’re remembering again.
You send your lover off to China and you wait for her to call
You put your girl up on a pedestal and you wait for her to fall
I put my summers back in a letter and I hide it from the world
All the regrets you can’t forget are somehow pressed upon a picture
In the face of such an ordinary girl.
We want to see faces that tell stories. We want to see passion on the streets, people screaming and crying, and pretend we’re annoyed by the noise but secretly love it, secretly feel like we’ve just been given a shot of adrenaline.
We want to make the most of our youth. Treat it like it’s an orange and we’re sucking the pulp dry. Sticky fingers, messy hands, but damn it tasted good.
We are the type of people whose anxieties propel us forward. Anxiety is what forced us to stay here, anxiety is what landed us our great job. We’re always moving closer and closer to where we want to be, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
We’re feelings junkies. When we walk out of our door in the morning, we want our brain to be assaulted by a myriad of things. We’re not ready to feel balanced and healthy yet. Burning the candle at both ends still fills us with an intoxicating combo of joy and dread. We are like a strange mix of resilience and ultimate fragility.
Photo Credit: KML Photography
Blog Credit: Thought Catalog, Ryan O’Connell
“We didn’t have to ask for this job. It’s built in. Has been ever since the dawn of time, when a few wild dogs took it upon themselves to watch over man. To bark when he’s in danger. To run and play with him when he’s happy. To nuzzle him when he’s lonely. That’s why they call us Man’s Best Friend.” -Homeward Bound