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Sunday, November 19, 2006Subway Encounter
My father was riding the subway into work and looked up several times from his newspaper to see a man staring at him. He sized the man up; he was around the same age as my father (45), his clothes were worn, his hair and beard in need of grooming. While he wasn’t dirty or smelly it was obvious he had seen better days and was homeless. There was something oddly familiar about the man. When the man noticed my father was staring back at him he looked down as if he were ashamed. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he had seen this guy somewhere before.
As the train pulled into my father’s stop he got up and approached the homeless man. He smiled at the man and held out his hand, “Good Morning my name is William. The man said nothing and as they shook hands my father pressed a ten dollar bill into the man’s hand. “Take care of yourself man.” and stepped off the train. Just as the subway doors closed the homeless man stood up and said, “Thank you Johnny.” He felt as if someone had punched him in the gut and stared at the train as it pulled out of the station. Johnny was my father’s childhood nickname.
Suddenly he knew why the man had seemed familiar. They had been childhood friends. The man’s name was Michael and within their clique Mike was known as the brain. He was an honor student with dreams of being a doctor. Dad recalled their childhood and the outrageous pranks their group pulled off together. The one that made them legends within the halls of their school took place during their senior year. It is one that the senior classes still try to top to this day. The one where they carried off Brother Richard's 1973 Volkswagen Beetle in the middle of the night and parked it several blocks away from their parochial school making the poor Jesuit monk think his car had been stolen.
Dad couldn’t get over what he had seen on the train and it affected him all day. He even called his parents out in Florida and told them what he has seen hoping that they might know the whereabouts of Mike's family. Dad has been unable to get his encounter with Mike on the subway out of his head. When he spoke to my mom about it his eyes filled with tears. He is worried about his old friend. He is now determined to find Michael again and to help him. My father has an intimidating presence, only those of us that know him are aware of the sensitive man that lies behind those beautiful green eyes.
Labels: subway stories
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