For several years in my twenties, I worked as a waitress. Every night after work I walked to the bus station downtown, then rode the rest of the way home. It was usually late at night and I loved it. At night, the city was my friend. It kept me company. It listened to my thoughts as I walked.
It still does.
Often on those walks I would smile without realizing it. It was the only time during the day I would do that.
Most of those nights, I followed the main street all the way downtown, but one day, wanting to take my time, I decided to go a different route. So, I went through the park instead. There, I stopped on a footbridge and looked at the water for a while. I thought about the man I saw at the park several years before and how jealous I was that he was alone and how much I wanted to be like him.
Maybe, I thought, I finally am.
When I got to the bus station, a thin man wearing old work clothes opened the door for me.
As he did so, he gave me a very big, very genuine smile. I smiled back. He said “Hello,” and I said “Hello, how are you doing?”
“Fine,” he said. He kept smiling and looking at me. Then he went through the door and left.
I didn’t know the man and I never saw him again, but somehow, I knew what he was thinking anyway. He was thinking, Isn’t life good and aren’t you glad?
When he stopped to say hello to me, I had been thinking the same thing. Maybe he could tell.
As I waited for the bus that night, I lay on a bench alongside the bus shelter outside. Exhausted from work, I stared at the side of the building.
That wall is beautiful, I thought.
And that was the way I was all that time I was alone: thoughtful, and a little strange, and everything was meaningful to me. And that is the person I want to know forever and never let go.