Of late I have been in a pretty awful funk. Between losing a girlfriend, a job, the temporary use of my right knee, my lungs (chest cold), and the use of my car (thankfully now repaired at the cost of 500 dollars), it's been a shitty few days. But this post isn't to be a list of complaints.
Friday, on the way to pick up my car from the shop I took a few unfamiliar bus routes, and found myself with extra time to wait. An elderly Vietnamese gentleman shared the bench with me and we got to talking. His right eye was unusable, looking more the color of milk than anything else. He walked with a crutch, and spoke, by his own estimation (though not mine) bad English. He smiled throughout our talk. He was late for some meeting (I couldn't ever figure out what). His bus wasn't coming for another 40 minutes, and he moved with great unease. It was not a "there but for the grace of God" moment. Hardly. It was simply the fact that he was the first person to talk to me that entire day. I'd spent the day inside. Watching tv, feeling miserable, and sorry for myself. He approached me and we started talking, and it was fun. Somehow I'd forgotten how much I just enjoy meeting people, talking with them, learning from them. I never caught his name, nor gave him mine. Midway though the conversation he confided that after the end of the war, he was imprisoned for 6 years. He said this with the sorrow that I usually attach to losing my keys. It seemed, as he explained it, inevitable, and therefore not something to worry about or lament. I can't imagine that that's how he felt about it then, or now, but it was a little perspective adjustment. It's alright to go through tough times, in fact it's expected, but the real skill is moving on. Not ignoring, but continuing.
The man then out of the blue asked (as one question) how old I was and if I am married. I responded honestly to both, feeling some odd shame about the answers; a welling up of lost opportunity, missed chances, something overblown and self defeating. I was certain that he was going to be shocked by my age and lack of wife. Nope, turns out his 3 children are 30, 32, 36 and none of them are married. Each is too busy working with "the computers" and "saving to buy a home, gotta get a home, gotta buy a house." Again, it was nice to have a little perspective. My bus arrived and we parted company. One of those nice things about public transit, you get to meet people whom you don't know. Sitting anonymously in a coffee shop is a very Seattle thing to do, and it's been the bulk of my days of late, but it's nothing like talking to a stranger.
The second stranger experience was just yesterday morning. I was heading over to pick up a friend on the way to frisbee. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman sitting on the grass in front of some of the great houses near my apartment. She seemed out of place. I stopped the car (in the middle of the road, thankfully it wasn't busy) and ran over. She was, in fact, out of place, she'd fallen on her way to the nearby church. I helped her up, at which time she confided that without help she did think she could have gotten up. We parted company and she called over her shoulder "thanks, I'll say a prayer for you at church." It was the best start to my day in a long time. It's awfully nice to stop feeling so fucking selfish, and sorrowful just for a little. It's like the record skipping. You realize that maybe the sad sad songs you've been listening to aren't the soundtrack to your life, or at least they only are if you keep putting them on. I've felt better since. Both meetings were chance encounters, and both gave me a little distance from my frustration and self-loathing, a little space to realize that it's fine to feel crappy, but better to do something about it.