Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Angel On The Bus

By nature I am naturally a shy person therefore I can appreciate how hard it is to initiate conversations with a stranger. I would never have the cojones to strike up a conversation like that. That takes courage something I am seriously lacking. For whatever reason maybe it’s my eyes I dunno but it tends to happen to me a lot,strangers starting up conversations with me. Invariably and unintentionally I’ll say something that will make them laugh and next thing you know we’re talking to each other as if we’ve known each other forever.

I took the bus from the Bronx into Manhattan to pick up my significant other from work. Granted it would have been way faster if I’d taken the subway but when it’s nice outside and I have time to kill I prefer to take the bus and enjoy the ride. I was into my music checking out the scenery when my phone rang. I popped out one of my ear buds and lowered the volume on my iPod, it was the BF wanting to know my whereabouts. Just then I happened to look up and noticed a man staring at me. He smiled warmly at me and I returned his smile and went back to my conversation. Every now and then I’d catch him looking at me, specifically the tattoo on my left arm. My conversation over I slid my phone into the front pocket of my messenger bag and was about to put my ear bud back into place when the man approached me and asked about my tattoo. He wanted to know where I had gotten it.

He wanted a tat himself but was unsure as to where to get it from. I gave him the name and address of my regular tat guy and warned him not to be put off by the place. It’s in rough part of the Bronx in the back of a biker bar. My guy Michelangelo (name’s perfect for him) has a couple of rooms in the back of his bar that he and his apprentice work out of a couple times a week in between tending bar. Michelangelo doesn’t ink because he needs the money he inks for the love of the art and his prices are reflective of this. The only catch is you have to go at night after the bar is opened , the later the better Michelangelo doesn’t ink during the day. I also warn him that sometimes there's a long line of people waiting to see Michelangelo so be prepared to break night playing pool or come back another time.

The man asked to take a closer look at my tat and I hike up my short sleeve all the way up to my shoulder so he can examine it thoroughly. He’s amazed by the intricate tat and tells me about the tattoo he wants. He wants to tattoo the images of his wife and three daughters on his back. “Can I just talk to you?” he asks “Sure thing it’s not like I’m going anywhere, looking around the bus, “my stop is no time soon.”One thing leads to another and the next thing you know he is pouring out his story to me. He tells me his wife and kids died in a fire a few years back and he’s having a hard time, he can't seem to move on with his life. He talks for awhile. His grief pouring out like verbal diahrrea. He can't seem to hold anything back. The pain of it all is there on his face and in his words. I listen intently and ask questions about his girls, his wife. Little things. He loosens up a bit and begins to tell me about the little details of his former life. His girls loved french toast with raisin smiley faces on top;his wife had an identicial twin and he could never tell them apart and she'd always tease him about it. Things that back then were taken for granted but that today are treasured. The more he talks about them the more he remembers until he finally confesses what I'd felt all along; he feels guilty for having survived the fire. Finally he seems to be talked out exhausted and falls silent. I tell him that his wife would want him to live and to move on because after all when we love someone truly love someone we want them to be as happy as possible even if we are not a part of the happiness...still just to see them happy gives us joy.

After a couple of silent minutes he confided that he had never spoken to anyone about the way he felt not even his own family. He preferred to suffer in silence with his grief and with his survivor guilt. He said he couldn’t even understand what drew him to me what made him open up to me except that when I had smiled at him it had affected him, my smile he said stirred him. “ Do you realize you have an incredible smile? It has has the power to light up a room. ” "Thanks.I owe it all to my Oral B toothbrush and regular flossing." I reply and he laughed. He then adds that I should really be a shrink because I was so easy to talk to. I smile again and don't bother to tell him about the years of counseling classes or the shiny new psychology degree I recently acquired. Instead I suggested a couple of grief support groups for him to check into. He promised that he would.

We sat in silence for a few minutes and just before his stop came up he stood up kind of bowed to me and kissed my hand then headed for the exit. He looked back at me and just before he stepped off the bus added “ Who knew i'd find an angel here on earth. An angel right on the bus. Thank you.”

After he left I sat back and felt as if I had done something good that day as if all the years of hard work and studying had paid off. I had actually made a difference, I had actually helped someone . This at a time when I was doubting that i'd be able to put my degree to use when I was thinking it was worthless. I can’t put it into words. The feeling that came over me was indescribable and words can not possibly to it justice. He may have thought that I was an angel that day but in reality the angel on the bus was him. He gave me confidence that I was on the right track and that sticking around NY for another couple of years to pick up another degree had been the right thing. I often think about him while on my way to school now and just when the work load at school seems to be a little too much I remember his face and his words and it spurs me on.

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