Monday, June 3, 2013

Stranger in the Rain

It's a rainy day and everything seems to be taking a little longer this morning.  I sign checks, pack lunches, do hair and do a hundred other little things while trying to get myself dressed.

Finally the kids are at school and I'm on driving alone to work, playing whatever song I want LOUDLY on the radio while I mentally list all the things I have to do when I get to work.

Three things. Four things. Oh, wait, five.  I feel a sharp pain in my chest, stabbing relentlessly.
It can't be anything, really it can't be anything serious, I decide to let it go but it doesn't leave.

I pass landscapers digging holes by the I-10 exit, planting trees in the rain.  The seem to be laughing at each other and having fun in the mud. Or maybe I imagine that.

I keep going, or at least I try to, but I'm stuck between a huge WalMart truck and an over sized load.
Whatever. I keep listing what I have to do.....Write this, change that, buy this, finish that, hoping that my thoughts will make the pain go away.

I usually take one route to work, but it seems like these big trucks are going that way so I slide into a turn lane and go the other way.  I get to the intersection just as the green turn arrow turns red.

A man stands in the rain with a sign that says, "Bless You."

People ignore him.

I can't. I won't.

I roll down my window and call him over and while he weaves between other cars to come to me I search for money.

I never have cash on me because my kids are always needing $1 for this and $5 for that.  I manage to scrape a handful of silver from my ashtray and slide it into his hand.

He smiles. He has green eyes, light eyes and a face of kindness.

Before he can walk away I keep looking for more things to give him. If I had lunch with me, I would give it to him, but I don't even have lunch for myself.

Would you like a water bottle? I offer him the bottle  Zoe left in the car this morning.

The man standing in the rain accepts the water bottle laughingly and pretends to pour it on his head, since he's already wet.

I'd give you and umbrella if I had one!! I tell him, and he says he's fine but he doesn't walk away and no one else is offering him money or help or even the kindness of acting like they see him, so we keep talking.

I fish around the bottom of my purse and find a few more quarters and hand them to him.

His face changes into one of concern. How are you feeling? he asks me with a seriousness that almost makes me cry.

Me? I'm fine! (I can't say this but my eyes blurt out Of course I'm fine, I'm in a car and you're standing in the rain!)

How's your blood pressure?

Fine, I guess, I'm not big on going to the Doctor!

I'm a Doctor, he tells me, and I don't challenge him, I have no reason to believe he isn't.

How's your heart?

My heart? I ask and put my hand over that stabbing pain that I'm sure is coffee or stress or whatever.

Yes, your health is important!

Oh, I think I'm healthy enough, I say while digging another handful of change from another pocket in my laptop case and slide it into his hand. At this point he is leaning out of the rain, kinda into my car.

But are you HAPPY? he asks, very directly.

Happy? Um... I like to make other people happy, I tell him and he shakes his head at me like I'm a silly child.

You HAVE to be happy. You deserve it, he tells me in a voice with great seriousness and gravity that hits a nerve so raw that tears well up in my eyes.

 I can't cry, I didn't bring mascara with me to work, so I bite my lip hard.

Just then the light changes and I get my green arrow to turn.

I tell him goodbye and thank you, and as I roll my window up he shouts Be happy! It matters!! Doctor's orders! 

As I drive off I look back in my rear view window and see him dancing between the cars and puddles, sending himself off into his own happiness and leaving me to figure out my own.