Have you ever had a movie moment in your life? Or half a day, rather, that seemed to come right from Hallmark. Something you could not have planned. I did. It happened on the cusp of summer in the ballsy metropolis known as Dallas, Texas.
In 2010, a group of us from work were attending training in this great city of burgeoning heat. I was especially elated since it was my first time visiting Texas and it fed my relentless desire to travel. I have a fire (more like an uncontrollable dance of flames eating up a delicate forest) that roars in my belly. It urges me to go go go. To see see see.
Fresh out of a long-term relationship and still doing the “let’s work it out” bit, my insides were splayed open with emotional pain. There I was in this bizarre southern land roaming around mostly on my own checking out Whole Foods Market and other such fine establishments. I decided to visit the arboretum while the rest of the gang went to the football stadium. Yes, I passed up gallivanting at the Cowboys Stadium to see flowers. Lots and lots of pretty flowers. I needed a quiet place where I could, you know, commune with The Almighty Presence and lament over what in hell might happen next.
As my torso beaded with sweat, I sat at the bus stop partly pretending like I knew what I was doing and partly worried I would not make it to the flowers. An older woman with skin the color of a Godiva Dark Chocolate Bar sat a few feet from me as she rested a cloth bag on her lap. The familiar discomfort of meeting a stranger and finding words to say tugged at my nerves. I asked if she knew where the arboretum was and she tried explaining it to me. She informed me that the bus that would be picking us up would drop me off in front of the gardens.
A sweet conversation unfolded. She restored my hope that there are people in this world that can talk about the heavier stuff even to someone she just met. I couldn’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard in one way or another that I think too much or am intense. Well, that’s the way I like it. My inclination is to bathe in the deep and have it overrun my skin like a warm soak in salt water.
The woman shared she used to believe she could not have anything and now she knows otherwise with the faith she has in her own strength. On the bus, she showed me pictures of her daughter and grandchildren. The pride she felt for them glowed in her face as she said she visited with them as often as possible. Slowly we quit talking and I gazed out the window as we came to her stop a few minutes later. She was returning a watch at a nearby store. We said our friendly goodbyes and I told her it was nice meeting her.
Finally at the arboretum, I followed the winding footpaths. It was not as peaceful as I had hoped. Apparently it was field trip day as there were several groups of children with adults I assumed were teachers. Nevertheless, I worked my way onto the lawn and snapped some pictures of the brightest orange blooms I’d ever seen. Oh, it was humid and there were clouds cursing the air with the potential for rainfall. It sprinkled here and there. I thought of the disintegration of my relationship. How could I not? It lasted nearly four-and-a-half years. Problems engulfed us and I ached with anxiety and grief. Even in my pain, I admired the green stems with their colorful explosion of buds. They seemed to just spring from the earth between grass blades without a concern in the world. It reminded me of the children there and what it was like to be so in the moment. They were free and bouncing around in their splendid differences and leaning toward the sun.
After about an hour I was ready to find my way back to the downtown area. Food was on my mind. I sent a text message to a coworker asking what she and some of the others were doing for dinner. We decided to meet up at the West End Station and take it from there. I waited another hour while huddling in some shade for a bus to pick me up and take me to the rail station. It was evident that bus stops were the place to meet some fascinating folks because there I chatted with a couple from Belgium. Within seconds of the husband saying where they were from, I was daydreaming of waffles.
The train ride back allowed me time to sit and rest my legs after a morning of walking. I made eye contact with some people and it was not as scary as I once believed. Not everyone is a psycho weirdo on public transportation. That’s a relief. Several minutes later I stepped off the train after it came to a stop and took a seat on a bench. By that time the temperature had cooled and the obnoxiously tall buildings hid what was left of the sunlight. I felt itty bitty compared to these structures shooting like rockets from the ground. I waited on a bench as a couple other trains came through. My coworkers were nowhere to be seen yet. Then as if someone hit repeat or The Almighty Presence said, “here let’s give this a go again” the woman I met earlier came off the train toward me. We both looked at each other a little surprised. Cue Hallmark movie moment. What are the chances? In that big of a city. Who would have dreamed?
“Hi,” she said and sat next to me with that same cloth bag. We talked some more and she told me she used to teach. Because of her disability she became a substitute but that didn’t bring her down. She pulled out her Holy Bible and said it was the reason she remained strong. I’m not much of for the scriptures but I appreciated what she had to say. She used her disability to help others. Asking what I did for a living, I told her I worked for Head Start. She said I seemed like a teacher. More than a year later I’ve had a few others tell me they felt the same thing about me. I claimed the moment and told her what an inspiration she was for me. I kept my heartache to myself but she answered a prayer I did not even pray. It happened twice in one day. The message was louder than anything I would have heard otherwise: keep strong. Not even five minutes passed when the next train came to pick her up. As she stood she wished me success in whatever I did and walked away. I never got her name or even a hug. Two of my coworkers stepped off the same train and I asked one if she saw the lady I was speaking to. I told her what happened as that is a story you have to tell somebody.
Needless to say, the relationship eventually dissolved and the hurricane of emotions slowly waned. While there is a tinge of sadness at times over the loss (it was an important growing experience), even that morphs into a gratitude I probably could not have found any other way. That woman will never know the impact she had on me and how grateful I am for it. And regardless of the weight of our issues, my ex will not know how much he helped me stubbornly see my worth. So thank you dear Southern Woman and Broken Heart Man.
© Natosha Davis June 2011