Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
I’m waiting in line for three ticket machines in the metro station. Of course, I get to mine, and it doesn’t take cash. Or cards. So I turn, tugging my suitcase along, joining the line for a different machine. A woman with red hair meets me and holds out a ticket. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed because I’ve just arrived, I’m in a crowd of tourists, and I’m carrying too much stuff. Nabokov wrote in Despair, “I had a suitcase with me and it hampered my movements, for I belong to the class of people who hate carrying anything.” This is very me, but I have to balance that sense against my need for things such as shirts and self-tanner.
The red-haired woman is giving me a day-pass for the metro. I’m so slow on the uptake that I don’t even take it, so she presses it into my hands and walks away, helplessly looking skyward. When I finally grasp that it is a valid ticket, a free ticket, I feel so ungrateful. I hustle down the steps and find her on the platform. We have so few shared words, but I know how to say “Thank you” and I say it over and over. She has the same pass I did. So she must have left a friend somewhere, then wanted to pass on the free travel. Perhaps this was so.
In the train, we try to talk. We both think of things to say, and then give up the ideas after a few blank blinks from the other. I manage to communicate that we have the same color of eyes and she nods, “Yes, yes.” Finally, she pulls out her phone and shows me photos of her two children. She points to one and says the child’s name, then the other. I repeat them, but I’ve forgotten them now. Darling little kids, a boy and a girl.
At her stop, I thank her again. She stands at the door, holding her bag in front of her, and watching herself in the reflection in the train window. I hope she is feeling happy about helping me. I hope she is happy with her act of kindness. It was a gift as well how she pulled me from my distractions, it is a gift to be able to say thank you.