I woke up late for my interview, as I knew I would. So many months of unemployment takes it’s toll on your sleep schedule. I have 1/2 hour to go from scraggly to suit-worthy. My printer runs out of ink, so I can’t print my resume. I realize I utterly forgot to hand wash the shirt I want to wear. I have a new zit. I am miserable.
Slogging along, I start to wonder if John perhaps slipped $20 into my account. John is my ex-boyfriend and still incredible friend, and we continue to share a bank account. As he has more money than Midas, he’s been known to just put a few bucks in unasked. Especially when he knows I’m nearing the breaking point, which I’ve already passed by now. Reaching the ATM, I find my account at $0, which is something I’ve NEVER seen before. So much for a cab and possibly food. Now I’m starved, on my way to an interview, and taking the train to a bus I’ve never taken before to a part of town I’ve never been in before. I’m fine with the El, but buses make me nervous. It doesn’t matter what the printed route shows, the bus drivers go wherever they like, I swear.
Find my bus, and sit perched in the very front seat, watching every street sign pass by. I’m nervous. I’m edgy. I’m picking my nails apart. I’m too distracted KNOWING I’m going to miss my stop to even focus on the interview before me. I’m hungry. I stink of unemployed desperation. I’m wearing a suit, but my face screams, “SOUP KITCHEN!” to anyone that cares to look, which no one does.
The bus stops to pick up an older man. Looking him over, I immediately cheer up. He’s probably in his 70’s, incredibly dapper, and screamingly gay. I suppose I shouldn’t assume he’s gay, as he was not actively engaging in coitus of any sort with a member of the same sex, but he lisps charmingly. He has a very high-pitched, effeminate voice. He’s wearing a PINK ASCOT, fercryinoutloud. He is Quentin Crisp, but nice. This man makes me happy. He walks past me, smiling and nodding, in his houndstooth jacket. I am in lurrrrrrrrrrve with this man. He has a cane, which even though he uses it, is still quite jaunty. I want to marry this man and have his gay, 70 year-old babies. I worship him.
A few stops later, we pick up a black woman, probably in her mid-30’s. She is dressed in head-to-toe Hallowe’en theme. She looks unwashed, and smells the same. She’s missing teeth. When greeting the bus driver, she is obviously South Side-urban. She is street smart. She is someone my eye slides right off of.
As soon as she passes me, her eyes light upon my boyfriend, sitting in the aisle across. With a scream of joy, she FLINGS herself at him! They immediately start babbling like a couple of teenage girls. Oh, this and that and how so-and-so is doing and where have you BEEN! I’ve missed you so much! They are overjoyed to see each other. They can NOT stop laughing and talking. And as I watch, I find myself with a strange sensation. After a moment or so, I recognize it. I am grinning from ear-to-goddamn-ear. I forget about my interview, I forget about the shirt I wanted to wear, that I have no money, that I might miss my stop. I sit there and just bask in the utter joy of watching those two talk. There is nothing more important to me right then than to watch them.
Just a few minutes before we reach my stop (which the bus driver yelled out, another useless worry put to rest), I find out how they met. In church. They used to go to the same Mass before one, then the other moved out of the neighborhood.
Now, friends, I am not religious in the least. You’ll hear me say, “Thank the gods” or “Gods alone know” or somesuch babble like that, but that’s only because I’m like a grunt in Vietnam. I’ve got a cross, a Star of David, a pentacle, a scalp, some finger bones, a rabbit’s foot and a four leaf clover in my pocket. I hedge no bets, let me tell you. I can’t afford to. And, admittedly, I have a tendency to get even more rude about religion after Sept. 11. I’m not saying it’s right, by any means, but anyone that can commit atrocities in any god’s name, well…let’s just say it casts a pall on religion in general for me.
But watching those two gave me hope. And joy. And even, yes, serenity. I sat there and listened to two people, a 70-something white, urbane, gay man and a 30-something black urban woman talk to each other. And LISTEN to each other more importantly. It was simply the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in I don’t know how long.
I stepped off the bus crying. I’m crying now, for what that’s worth.
And I walked straight into that building, fixed my makeup and ACED that interview.