I took mass transit home from the bus station Sunday night after Thanksgiving. Took the subway to Brooklyn then transferred to the bus that gets me closest to my door. As I left the train and headed for the escalator, I passed a man sitting on a bench. He didn’t look homeless, but he didn’t look ‘right’ either. He had said something to the ladies who had passed him before I reached him, but they had just kept walking without giving him a second glance. It put me on guard a little.
As I passed him, he called out: “How do you spell ‘through’ like if you said, ‘all through the night.’ How do you spell that?”
So I slowed down just a little and spelled it for him. And I smiled and kept walking.
“It’s really great to learn how to read, right?” he asked.
But I was already turning toward the escalator, already wanting to be home because it was cold and rainy and I was tired and had just been cooped up on a Greyhound bus for an hour and a half longer than scheduled because of traffic, and I needed to use the bathroom and … well, I just wanted to get home and feed my cats and be in my house.
It is really great to learn how to read, and I wish I had run into that man on some other day, on a day when I would have been more likely to stop and talk to him, to find out what was up with him, to find out if he was in a literacy program or if he wanted to be, to give him my card and invite him to call or come by my office.
Sunday night wasn’t that night. The moment is lost, but I can’t stop thinking about that man, wishing I could go back and stop to talk with him, wondering if he asked the women ahead of me the same question he asked me.