Miss? Miss, can I ask you something?

That was how my conversation started at the bus stop tonight.  I was listening to my music, deciding what I thought about the date I was on the way home from, and then this young guy walked up and asked if he could ask me something.

“I need some advice.”

I’m pretty used to strangers talking to me on the street because I am one of those people to whom it happens all the time.  My chatty strangers don’t usually ask me for advice, however.

“She’ll let me stay at her place,” he explained, “but only to help with the rent and taking care of my kid.  But I don’t know.  I think she’s still seeing other dudes.  What you think I should do?”

Seriously.  You would ask a stranger this question?  But if you would turn to a random stranger, you must be so desperate, so at the end of your rope, how could I not try to talk to you if you asked me this question?  But I have nothing to go on.  My first response was to laugh — because he started so in the middle of things with that unidentified “she” not just because of the total absurdity of the situation — but I held that in check.

“I have no idea.  [insert pause for my brain to scramble for something to say] Maybe think about what it would mean for your kid to have you there in the house?”

Oh, he’d thought about that.  His daughter had apparently told him how much she wanted him there and was looking forward to him picking her up from school.  Which made sense.  That question was really more of a stall because of course the issue wasn’t the kid but the ex-girlfriend.

I didn’t want to give him advice.  Never mind the fact that I have the known world’s worst relationship experience.  He just shouldn’t have been talking to me, a complete stranger!

But he looked so sad and confused …

“Maybe you should think about how you’ll feel living there and seeing her date other men.  I mean, are you hoping the two of you will get back together?”

“I thought we could, you know?  I think I’ve been fooling myself.”

I told him it was a really hard decision and how much I didn’t envy him.  He stood there for a long few minutes, saying nothing, just staring at the ground.  I couldn’t tell if the conversation was over or if he was going to ask another question … or maybe smack me for having so much nothing to offer him.  Finally he just shook his head.

“Thanks for listening,” he said and walked away.

What do I do with that?  How can it be that the only person he could find to talk to was me?  That’s just so wrong.

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8 thoughts on “Miss? Miss, can I ask you something?

  1. You don’t do anything with it.

    Your job, at that moment, was to simply to listen, that was all he wanted/needed. A momentary sounding board for the thought that was bubbling through his head waiting to come to the surface. Maybe he just needed a voice other than his own in order to guide it there.

    Know that in some some small, unseen way you did what you do do best — you teach, you guide… Once the thought came, he processed it and moved on and now you move on.

    1. You’re right, Raivenne, that my job was to be standing there to listen when he needed to talk. I just hope I didn’t say anything that could have been harmful instead of helpful.

  2. The Other Stacie

    This happens to me a lot as well. Maybe it’s the name… In any case, I often tend to be the girl that other girls seek out in bar bathrooms or older folks on the bus. It has to be related to the work we do or that we’re approachable.

    I agree that you did all you could in the moment. It sounds like he just needed someone to listen to him. You know how that feels — the need to escape all of the noise in your head.

    I hope you can find some comfort in knowing that you were there for another human being in that moment. I’m sure he won’t forget it.

  3. molly

    You didn’t just listen, you offered insight. He realized what he had been hiding from himself: how much he wanted to get back together.
    There is hope for the human race if people can ask for help like that. Good for you for helping him.

    1. Thank you, Molly. I keep my eye out for that young man. I often see the same people on that bus, so I keep hoping I’ll see him, maybe get to ask how he’s doing. So far, no sightings, so I have to hope that what I said did no harm … and that it might have helped a little.

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