Monday, March 21, 2011

A wish for a stranger

A man boarded my #6 uptown train this afternoon after work. I don't know why I happened to look up as he got on at 68th Street, but I did. The first thing I noticed was that he had a swollen, misshapen lip. He sat down on the bench across from me and looked down. I glanced at him again and saw that a dark birthmark covered most of the right side of his face. He continued looking down.

Though I was wrapped up in a story pouring from my iPod into my head, I found myself looking across the aisle at the man every once in a while. It wasn't the lip or the birthmark that kept pricking my interest; neither were ghastly horrible, just, well, I don't know. I wasn't staring at the guy, just glancing over occasionally, trying to read what was in his face. He looked, hmm, stoic. Resigned. Still, it was the end of a work day, and who looks buoyant after that, eh? Anyway, he never raised his eyes, stared at the floor the whole trip.

But for some unexplained reason, I found myself hoping he was happy.

I see all sorts and conditions of folks every day. Why this particular man touched my heart, I do not know. It wasn't pity, not at all. But there was something in the look on his face that made me wonder about him. And by the trip's end - we both got off at 116th Street - I was deeply wanting this fellow to be headed home to a big loving family (or at least a sweet old dog) who thought he hung the moon. I was wishing that he had a job he loved (or at least one that paid the bills). And I want to think that his lip and birthmark make absolutely no difference in his life, that after forty-something years, those things are just a small part of who he is.

As we got off the train, I caught his eye and smiled. He looked down and ducked out of the subway car, headed in the opposite direction from me. I'm sure he was tired. But I do hope he's happy.

7 comments:

TheiaT said...

best thing i've read all day:)

MaryB said...

Thank you, Theia. (And kiss that sweet baby for me.)

GlennC! said...

Mary, I want to know the ending. Darn. Super nice, nice story…I'm just so inquisitive.

MaryB said...

Well, Glenn, I guess we'll never know, though I may see him again, since he got off at my subway stop. We'll just have to hope for the best for him.

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a sweet story Mary...touching in fact. I wonder what he was about.

MaryB said...

Joy, I know. What's it been like to live with that birthmark? I hope it hasn't made any difference.

Liz said...

You've made me hope the same thing too!