Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Disconcerting Encounter on a Rainy Day

We'd been lucky, I guess, that we had to go car-free during a drought. Yesterday it rained. And rained. And rained. (My favorite kind of day.) The temp wasn't too bad; around 68 degrees. Zed missed aikido both days last week so I was determined that he would get there this week-rain or shine. We left with enough time to take the long way 'round to the bus stop but I made the mistake of letting Zed talk me into taking the shortcut. Big mistake. Of course, since it had been raining for over 24 hours, the creek was swollen. We got to the stepping stones and found they were all submerged, so we had to build a new path by moving big rocks and placing them carefully. We'd been at it a couple of minutes when I said we should just go back and around the other way, but I checked my clock and we didn't really have time. So we made an emergency walkway and splashed across, climbing up the bank through the roots of a tree.

We made it to the bus stop and waited about 10 minutes in the pouring rain. Hammy had bought us new umbrellas but didn't realize they were as small as they are. Carmac had on a raincoat but his hair got pretty wet. My head stayed dry but the rest of me got wet (kept the books in my bag dry, though!). The bus finally arrived and we were glad to find the heat was on.

This is where my narrative gets all introspective and spiritually self-questioning. A man got on the bus. A very large, middle aged black man. He sat in the seat right in front of me and turned to talk to me. I've seen him around town, often panhandling. He looks homeless. He started asking me questions about where he could find a dry cleaners to repair the zipper of his coat. He would ask the same question 4 or 5 times, looking closely at me the whole time, as if testing me. I realized quickly that he is probably mentally "slow" and possibly mentally ill. He would ask my name and then praise Jesus, often repeating lines like "children of the sun, children of the sun" (or maybe "children of the Son"-I'm not sure) over and over. The thing that made me very uncomfortable was that he wanted to touch me, very much like a child. He would put his hand on my shoulder and rub it over and over or grab my arm and squeeze in time to the repetitions of phrases. I told him that he was making me uncomfortable and moved a little away but he didn't seem to hear me and kept trying to touch me. He asked what color my eyes are and asked me to take my glasses off so he could see my eyes. We looked deeply into each other's eyes for a moment but I was very uncomfortable and looked away. I just didn't know what he was asking of me. I kept thinking of Christ and "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me" and wondering what was needed from me and I didn't have a clue. I was also a little afraid that the man, William, would follow us off the bus and then what I would do.

I'm still pondering this encounter, trying to learn from it. What was William teaching me? What was he asking of me? I don't think his sitting next to me on an uncrowded bus and speaking with me so intimately and intensely was a coincidence. I've been thinking about what I learned from this profound post by Jim Rose and trying to put yesterday's meeting in context (thank you very much, Jim).

And now, we must leave again, to catch a bus...

No comments: