The Stranger

The other evening was a tumultuous one. I felt completely miserable, desolate, and in need of solace. Sometimes a bit of quality time by myself can temporarily ease the ache of loneliness, so, as I often do in times of hurt, I took a walk. It was warm and golden outside, just on the brink of sunset. My mind and feet wandered, leading me to the subway station near where I live. I walked by the waiting taxis, bus shelters, and newspaper vending machines, pensive, sniffling and wiping my face on the sleeve of my Harry Potter shirt. I felt young and conspicuous among the hurried, poker-faced commuters. Right before the entrance to the tunnels,  I gradually slowed to a stop. The sky had become a vast expanse of feverish pink, threaded with hues of quiet purple. Streetlights beamed, headlights flickered on. A few dozen feet to my left, behind shuffling rows of indifferent suburbanites, was a man with a large cooler and a sign–an unemployed father of four. My heart stirred. I dug my hand into my purse and came up with a handful of change, who knows how much or how little. Only a few tears dribbled from my eyes as I approached him, but as soon as I opened my palm, I began to sob. He looked upon me with gratitude and concern. “Thank you,” he said softly, and then hesitated. “So much.” For one split second, I looked up and met his eyes–calm and blue, searching mine of lamenting hazel. An uncontrollable heave of tears seized me as I looked away and continued on.  A few of the hurried commuters glanced up at me with passive regard. For that one second, that eternal second, I’d looked into the eyes of a man who understood pain and need. As hot tears tumbled down my cheeks, I realized that I was no longer crying for myself. I was crying for him.


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