I never know where to start. Life is like that. Every time you think you have pieced together exactly when an event began, you start to wonder if other things, earlier on, had any bearing on it. Like maybe what you ate for breakfast really did change how you were feeling. Or maybe, when you chose to sleep in your t-shirt instead of the flannel gown your grandma gave you, that made all the difference. Or maybe, what happened was fated. Maybe you could have changed a million little things and it still would have all come out the same. How can anyone know?
I like to think that it all started that day we first met. That somehow that really was the beginning. You were standing, looking lost, puzzling over the subway map. Your orange hat was on crooked and you had one or two more bags than you could comfortably carry.
I'd been sitting waiting for over an hour. I was more bored than I could ever remember being. My sister was to meet me for lunch, noon she'd said, noon at Union, we can decide where to go from there. And now, it was 1:09 and I'd read all the signs, posters, advertisments at least a hundred times.
I'd started playing the where-are-they-going game, inventing little stories for everyone who passed me. The mother with three children in tow on a school day was off to the dentist. The man with the tank top off to the gym. And you, I'd decided, had just arrived in the city. You were starting a new life. Everything you owned was in the bags piled precariously at your feet. You were off to meet your destiny. But you'd forgotten which station.
I was standing directly behind you, only millimeters away, when you finally turned around. I smiled my warmest can-I-help-you smile, but you still took two steps back. Our eyes met for the first time and somehow I knew that my story was all wrong, you weren't rushing toward something, but running away. You had pain and fear painted across your face.
"Its okay." I stammmered, taken aback by your panicked look. "I work down the street at the Hostel. I thought you might be looking for somewhere to stay? And, I thought you might want a hand with all those things." I added, nodding my head in the direction of your overflowing mountain of plastic bags and pillowcases.
You shrugged. You didn't say thank you or even ask my name. You just handed me a few of the lighter bags, collected the rest and trudged off in the direction I'd indicated. I followed behind matching your longer quicker gait. I tried a couple times to catch your eye, to make a start at conversation. But you were a brick wall.We mucked through the rain sopped streets squishing and squeaking the three blocks to the hostel. When we got to the desk you shrugged me off with a sort of I-can-take-it-from-here-thank-you look and I took the hint and headed back to the station.
Of course my sister was there and all upset that I had kept her waiting so long. And so over lunch I told her of you. If I hadn't, then perhaps today you'd be nothing more to me than the dentist-lady, or the work-out man. It's strange how things turn out.
"I saw your man today" my sister chirped, she looked like she'd burst.
"My man?" I couldn't imagine who she meant.
"Well he had an orange hat, and about a zillion bags. And he was in union station looking at the sub way map." She grinned. "I almost went up and spoke to him."