Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"And you know what? Everything is going to be okay."

As intimate encounters with strangers go, especially in New York City, the most you can expect is a grope on a crowded subway train. In fact New Yorkers are socially ingrained to avoid intimacy -- that means no eye contact in elevators and if you're lying in street bleeding we might call 911 as we step over you. It's not that we're lacking compassion, but rather in a city of 8 million you learn to guard your personal space more than others.

That said, I had been on the verge of tears for most of yesterday afternoon. Egged on by PMS, I had been worried about something (long story) and the more I thought about it the more my mind fed into my fears. I had sniffled my way to my 3:30 pm appointment with my holistic counselor and by the time I got there, sitting on a bench in the waiting room, I was trying desperately to keep it together.

"Are you okay?" I heard someone ask.

I looked up from my seat and saw a young man sitting across from me. Despite the fact that it was 40 degrees outside, he wore flip-flops with his jeans and a short sleeve shirt under his puffy sleeveless jacket. In his right eyebrow were two silver hoops.

I should state for the record that I am not a crier, much less one who cries in public. But when the guy asked if I was okay, the tears bubbled precariously close to surface.

"Yeah," I lied through a forced smile, voice cracking. "I'll be fine."

A couple of tense minutes passed as I focused on containing my emotions, apparently not doing a very good job.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he asked leaning towards my direction.

"It's nothing."

This time the woman directly across from me weighed in. "It can't be nothing if it's got you this upset."

Oh man, how the tears started to flow.

The guy then gently pointed to the empty seat next to him and motioned me over.

I swear that at any other time and any other location this encounter would have been creepy, but when he extended his hand and said his name was Rob, I was grateful for his genuine compassion.

Rob did his best to console me, especially when I tearfully explained what had been eating at me and apologized for crying in front of a stranger. He said everything that I already knew -- don't feed into fears, everything is a gift, and everything is a learning process. Mostly I just wanted someone to tell me it was going to be okay, which he did. And when it was time for his appointment, he hugged me goodbye.

So thank you, Rob. Thanks for casting aside the no eye contact, no touching rule when you saw someone in distress. Thanks for listening to a blubbering fool of a woman. I felt much better after talking to you and you're right, everything is going to be okay.


alice said...

Those are some of the greatest moments - I still remember the kindness that one homeless man showed me when I was walking down the street, crying but trying DESPERATELY not to. I was 19, and he was the 4th person I'd ever let see me cry. He just offered a really quiet, sincere, 'I'm sorry', and it's stuck with me, almost 10 years later. I'm glad that you encountered such kind folks.

pins said...

Ahh....that is sweet. I'm glad you let the tears go in front of the kind stranger.

Anonymous said...

me too. very glad you did.

roro said...

Awww! Now I'm tearing up just reading about it. What a lovely story. Hurray for kind strangers!