When you miss a connection on MARTA (Atlanta’s subway and bus system) you can find yourself waiting up to 30 minutes for the next bus or train.
Today a young man and I found ourselves in just such a predicament.
After we exchanged the look commuters give each other when you just miss a connection, he spoke to me, in a soft and friendly voice.
“I don’t mind waiting, so long as I can use that time to make a new friend or just enjoy another person’s company,” he said to me.
Despite being pickpocketed just last week in New York City, despite being a woman all alone in a subway station with a young man I didn’t know, and not being at my strongest. I didn’t even hesitate.
I introduced myself and confided I had recently moved here from NY and that I found Atlanta’s mass transit system frustrating.
He told me his name was Chris, he was 23, and just moved here from Chicago.
I didn’t mention my age, of course, and when he guessed 35 I was tempted to nod my head, but decided honesty was the best policy.
“No, I’m 50.”
Chris was quite the gentleman. He offered me a flirtatious compliment — “Uh, you’re young enough to be one of my children” was my reply — and I learned he was headed to his college class for video production.
He was dressed casually, but stylin’, in comfy slacks and a tan suede jacket and brown cap — clothes befitting a college kid, even if he was older than your average freshman.
And I was wearing my WJLA-TV winter coat, betraying my profession, so we talked a bit about being a visual storyteller.
He told me his ultimate ambition was to be a spoken artist. Not sure what that entailed, I inquired: “like a standup comic?”
“That’s one possibility,” said Chris. “I do write comedy.”
We agreed writing comedy was among the hardest challenges, and I encouraged him to keep at it, to write every day, and to watch and listen and read the works of great writers and comics to find the artist he would be.
He revealed that a former lover, a woman he said was 43 years old who was not African-American like him but “of another ethnicity,” as he described her, had asked him to share with her an example of his writing.
“But I have,” he said he had told her. “Every day.”
“What are you talking about?” he says she asked.
Chris paused, stepped closer to me to tell me his answer, his eyes wide and alive. “I write to you, and on you, and in you, and all over you, every day. If you want to see what it is that I write, it is here, between us, right this moment. I write onto your heart.”
Wow, I thought to myself. This kid is smooth!
But to him I said, “That’s very poetic, Chris. You should blog. Write something every day, not just on the heart of a woman but somewhere where others can see it.”
“Thanks,” he said, as if that hadn’t occured to him. And then suddenly we were no longer alone. Chris and I boarded the train that had just pulled into the Sandy Springs station. We took seats next to each other, my new friend and I, and discussed poetry.
He admired a ring upon my finger that I told him was given to me by my lost love.
Chris mentioned race once more and I told him I know that for many people the difference is an issue, in making friends or enemies or creating alliances or division.
“Not for me,” Chris told me. And what followed was something I could tell were not just words fresh from his lips, but prose drawn from his memory. He shared this with me as one would reveal a treasured jewel.
“I don’t see races.
I see faces.
I see people, from different places.
And those people all have different faces.
That is the basis, that all of us being from different places means, even if I have a different face, together we are still part of the same human race.”
I thanked him for sharing this and for keeping me company. We said farewell, then I left the train to continue my odyssey.
I committed to memory his spoken art, and committed to my heart his beautiful sentiment, so I could share it with you.