The other night I was on my way home from Mopsy’s house and waiting for the B65. “Miss!” I heard someone call. “Excuse me. Miss!” I looked around to see who was calling, see who was being called. To my surprise and pleasure, I found that I was the “Miss” in question. When I turned around I saw the man I’d seen on the subway platform after Thanksgiving, the one who asked me how to spell ‘through.’ This really is a small city, isn’t it?
“Miss. Walking is good for you, right?”
“Yes, walking is good for you.”
“Helps keep you healthy, right?”
“Yes, it could help keep you healthy.”
“And you gotta drink a lot of water, too, right?”
“Drinking water is good.”
“Which one is better?”
“I don’t know if one is really better …”
“You need them both, right?”
We went on. I wanted to bring up his question from the first time I saw him, wanted to talk about his interest in learning to read. But he seemed too focused on healthy living, and I couldn’t move him off that topic.
I’m happy I saw him, though. I like that that’s possible, that I can run into the same random person again (and maybe again). I’m still curious about him, and about the how and why of others’ decisions to ignore him — I was the only person who paid him any attention. Of course, as soon as I began talking to him, everyone else at the bus stop began to look at me as if I’d sprouted a second head. It was clear from the looks on their faces that the last thing anyone should do was talk to this man.
Yes, there’s something ‘not right’ about him. That much is plain. But what is also plain is that he is a nice guy, a friendly guy, a guy with a sweet, childlike affect who doesn’t seem to mean anyone any harm. Why wouldn’t I interact with him? It took nothing from me, was so easy to answer his quesions, to smile, to wave goodbye when my bus pulled up and wish him a good night. So easy, and yet I was the only person who did any of that.
I can’t make people change the way they see people like this man, can’t make other people talk to him or even acknowledge that they see him. But I can keep seeing and talking to him myself. I’m looking forward to running into him the next time, curious to see where our conversation will go.