I know I know, I haven’t posted since China. I’m really not sure why, other than just not feeling it. In lieu of a full catch-up, I’ll just catch up what’s relevant to this story.
I moved back home to LA and started a massage therapy program. In China, I just felt it was right, but now I’m beginning to understand why my intuition was telling me to go in this direction. It’s much more than just massage, it’s more of me putting myself in a situation that’s the most conducive to the next part of my personal growth.
Along with the massage, I’ve also started to work as a caregiver. We get paired with clients and visit them in their homes. My client is a mere 30 miles away, but since I sold my car, it actually takes me 2 or 3 hours, each way. I’ve done my best to love it though, especially with the level of exposure I get to people around LA. I feel more connected with the community and that’s what led to a few experiences I had last night that made this blog post necessary.
Last week, I was on my way home, on the second to last bus. Wait wait, first I have to say that during my commute, I try my best to stay off my phone and with all of my senses as fully engaged as possible. I especially enjoy watching people getting on and off of the bus. It’s very funny how few other people do that. So, it really catches my attention when someone is also more aware as well.
Anyway back to the story, on my way home. At the next stop, an old man comes on. He has a big gray beard that comes, in its own frazzely way, down to his chest. He’s wearing small Harry Potter spectacles (these definitely were too magical to be glasses!), and had a envelop, filled with papers, in his hand. More than his dumbledore appearance, the way he smiled and looked around really attracted my attention. I can’t stop looking at him.
I get up and go to sit next to him. Immediately we’re enveloped in conversation. The 40 minute bus ride goes by in a flash and from it I take a renewed passion to interact with the people around me.
I checked the bus times and knew this next bus transfer would be close, so off the bus I break into a run around the corner to catch my LAST bus home. No one is on the corner waiting, which usually means that I just missed a bus. Defeated, I sit down on the bench and see that I have 50 minutes until the next bus. I’m so close! But, it’s okay, I’ll take this opportunity for some patience practice.
I’m broken from my thought as a middle aged man comes up to me on my left. He asks me if he missed the bus. We relate over it being our last bus home and he tells me that he’s going to the bar across the street to get a beer as he waits. Still processing dumbledor’s spell, I tell him in a matter of fact way that I’ll join him.
Jonny stands about five eight with worn leathery skin and hands that look like they’re made of stone. He has a nice demeanor though, which makes me feel more comfortable with him. He ends up buying me the beer and telling me all about his carpentry business and his three sons, all around my age. He excitedly tells me he will travel to visit his middle son in Colorado for the winter holidays. I tell him a bit about my travels and chat the whole way back to the bus and all the way until he gets off the bus to get home.
A week goes by (hang in with me here, I’ll connect this all together) and I’m just approaching the stop for the second to last bus, the same one I took to Hogwarts last time. As I get to the stop, a big lady sitting on the bench turns around to yell at the group of people I’m walking with. She asks for a lighter and when no one responds, she starts to scream. I quickly dip by her radar and get close to the curb where the bus stops, which is also quite close to her. The crowd goes by, but she keeps screaming and even starts to spit. I can’t tell if it’s directed at me because none of it really makes sense. She’s just another one of the many crazy homeless people I see on my daily journey around the city.
I try to avoid her and just hope she’ll stop directing it toward me. She eventually does and just yells at nothing across the street, still all in words that don’t make much sense when put together. Then, an old man walks behind us and yells, just as loud at her, saying “Shut the fuck up, the police have been called and are on their way”, all of it definitely directed at her. This goes on for a few more minutes. She’s yelling across the street and the old man has now come over to my right, still yelling the same thing. I’m now sandwiched between these two people yelling, maybe at each other, so I take a few steps back and walk up the street to get away from that mess. As I’m passing her I take a good look at her face and see this ugly, twisted, red, exasperated look. I quickly look away to not attract her attention.perfect, now I’m far enough down to not be a casualty, but I’m in range to watch and make sure that nothing else happens.
A young athletic guy with dreadlocks walks by me and right toward the center of the war zone. I feel an urge to warn him, but I don’t. He stands almost directly in front of her and as expected, she starts to yell at him. He turns around and says a few things to her. He’s already definitely braver than I am. Then she says something about wanting a hug and the next time I glance over I see him going right for her. Oh great, this is it, someone is finally going to wack this lady. Now, I’m locked in on them to watch everything unfold. As he gets right up in front of her, he bends down and gives her a big hug. They stay embraced for what felt like an eternity, but was probably more like a few minutes. I can see him saying something to her and then they separate their bodies, but he keeps his hands holding hers. He holds her hands up and weaves his fingers in and out of hers, like they’re elementary school kids on the playground. I look at her face and to my surprise her expression has completely changed! The redness is gone and her eyes are sparkling. She’s smiling and even for a second, I can see her beauty coming out, right down from her soul. Now I have my shoulders turned toward them, watching in awe as this guys love totally transforms this woman in an instant.
The bus pulls up and everyone files on. I hang back to try and let this young guy go on before me. Instead the old man goes in front of me and just at the last second, he leans back and yells the same thing at the woman, one last time, as loud as he can. Then I start to usher him forward and as the young guy gets on after me, he leans back and tells the woman to have a wonderful night. At this point, she hasn’t yelled since he gave her the hug and I bet she got a real taste of the sanity she lost so long ago.
On that bus, I watch the guy as he sits in the old people section in the front. He sits right across from the old man who yelled and who is also now scowling at him. The young guy just responds with a big smile. Perfect reaction. This guy is my hero. Even though I normally try to avoid that area in the front of the bus reserved for old people, I sit next to him and talk to him. I tell him I saw what he did for that woman and I really appreciate people like him. I find out he’s a video producer from Nebraska who’s been moving around the country to get different perspectives on life. He’s only been in LA for less than a year. He ends up missing his stop because of our conversation and then quickly jumps off at the next stop.
It makes me feel inspired knowing there are such big hearted people out there. Especially in a time where the mass media bombards us with negative stimuli.
I get off that bus and wait for nearly 45 minutes for my last bus to get there. No beer this time and no Jonny anywhere in sight. I’ve sat here and waited for the bus since I met him and didn’t think about that night, but tonight is different because he’s on my mind. I just sit there and watch the road. After I get on the bus, I try to digest what just happened, so I pop my ear phones in, generally something I do every time on this last stretch home.
As I get into the neighborhood next to mine, I see an older man get on who has some crazy looking eye brow hair. I’m quite proud of it and quite jealous I don’t have an eye mane like that. Mines pretty healthy, but his is epic. Then, I look at him closer and think I’ve seen him before. I take off my hood and ear buds and realize, it’s Jonny! I can’t believe I’m seeing him again. We shake hands and he sits in the row of seats just in front of me.
He asks what I’m doing and I can smell the thick perfume of stale beer. He doesn’t seem like the alcoholic type to me, so my attention is a bit spiked. I ask him in return what he’s doing. He looks at me without saying anything. I’m quite used to this by now from my travels. I actually would do this for minutes with people sometimes as we were bargaining. So, don’t challenge my staring capabilities. I start to get an amused look on my face as he looks down to his seat. I wonder if he’s just too drunk or if he’s just one of those old guys who’s comfortable with silence. When he looks back up I can see something in his eyes that wipes the amused look right off my face.
I can see a deep sorrow in his eyes that reaches right down into my heart. He says just four words… “I lost a kid”.
When our eyes connect I can see tears welling up and I can’t take it, I have to look away or I’m going to start crying. He tells me that his middle son, the one who he was going to visit this winter, died on Sunday.
I didn’t know what to say, so I just got up and sat right next to him. I said I was so sorry for his loss, but I was thinking that I couldn’t imagine the pain he must be going through. I barely know this man, but I feel so connected to him right now, just barely touching in the cramped bus seats. I want to hug him, but instead I just stay there and hold the space for him as we both sit there in silence.
He breaks the silence telling me about his discussion with his friend about my travels. Then, he tells me how surprised he was that someone my age would have been so bold as to join him for a beer. The wizard definitely gave me more confidence, but it doesn’t seem so strange to me, I’d probably do that anywhere.
Then as to combat the urge to go back into his sorrowful thought patterns, he grabs my arm in excitement and tells me a story about mountain biking with his friends and then asks to exchange numbers with the hope that we might hit the trails together. I can tell he just wants to talk about anything else and I’m happy to be there in that way for him. I just wish I could be there longer. The next stop is his.
It’s interesting that both of these events happened within a few hours of each other and had such a profound effect on me. I see the messages from both, so related to each other. Life is screaming at me not to take advantage of the illusionary cushion of being young. For most that’s a reality, but Jonny reminded me that at any point none of us know if we’ll be on this earth for another 10 minutes or 10 years. The conviction for me to live fuller is strengthened knowing that there are so many people like that woman at the bus stop, who have lost their footing and just need a loving presence to remind them of what it feels like to truly be alive.