I want to tell you a story. Now, before I go on, let me preface this. I am a practical woman by nature. I don’t get all wrapped up in new age-y stuff and even though I believe in fairies, I try to keep my whimsy to a minimum. This story is about angels. Not in the usual wings and Della Reese type angel, but normal people who do something nice or extraordinary. These are just regular people who help out at times when the smallest act of kindness is miraculous in its long-term effect.
There was a time in my life when I was at my end, when I was just too overwhelmed, too alone. I was 21. I was very, very poor, living in a suburban ghetto and working a shitty, low paying job 1.5 hours away from where I lived.
I was in the middle of a great depression. It lasted about three years and in that period of time I became mildly agoraphobic. I went to work and I came home. I didn’t have enough money for a phone or a TV. I didn’t have money for food or gas or anything that wasn’t rent related. I saw no one. I read books and smoked cigarettes. I did have Cleo. She was a brand new kitten and my saving grace a million times over, but this story isn’t about her.
It’s about a man I met once who changed my life, saved my life.
At the time things were really, really bad. I had no idea when I left fresh-faced for the university that I had the potential to completely fuck up my life, but that’s what I did. Fully and completely. I’m not a half-assed kind of person. It’s all or nothing. I went for broke and man, did I succeed. I had left the university, cold turkey, after a friend’s suicide. My friends, my boyfriend, my stuff, everything. I just walked away with what could fit in my car with false promises to return.
Contact with my family was strained or non-existent. My mother’s cancer had just metastasized. I had been arrested, kicked out, crashed my car and been beaten up. I was miserable, angry and totally self-sabotaging. One-step forward, three-steps back kind of girl.
On this particular day I added flat broke. I thought I could get to work with the gas I had in the tank. I figured I’d borrow $10 to get back home, but I didn’t have bridge toll. I needed a buck. The buck that broke the camel’s back.
That was it. I didn’t even have a dollar to my name. Sitting in traffic, watching my gas gauge, every failure, every mistake, and every fuck up piled up in my head. I never said or thought the word suicide. I thought I would just start over; end the misery for me and everyone I loved that I had hurt. That was my thought for the day.
I had no idea what was going to happen at the tollgate. I didn’t have the money. I found 40 cents in the seat cushion. I saw a dime on the passenger side floor. As I leaned over to pick it up and the traffic slowed. As I came back up, the car in front of me was stopped and I slammed on my brakes praying I wasn’t going to hit it.
I didn’t. It was close, but I didn’t hit him.
The car pulled over to the side of the road anyway.
I followed and got out, defensive and angry.
“I didn’t hit you!” I was pissed. Anger was the only thing keeping me going day to day. I was used to legitimate accusations and disappointment from people. I had to take that because I was a fuck-up. It was too much to ask me to take unfair accusations.
The man was really calm. He spoke softly and gently, which is odd in itself because we were on the side of the Highway 24 and traffic on the other side of the barrier was fast.
“I know. I know. Its okay. Your bumper fell off and I didn’t want you to run over it.”
I looked at the front of my car and sure enough, the bumper was held 2 inched off the ground by electrical wires. Okay. This was a ‘87 Cutlass Supreme. An Oldsmobile. I had not damaged it (yet). It just fell off.
“Oh.” I said and started to pull off the wires and pick up my massive steel bumper.
The man didn’t say anything for a minute.
“What were you doing? You weren’t paying attention.” He asked, nicely. There was no accusation in his voice and accusation was the only tone I had heard in a long time.
I mumbled something about change and bridge toll. I apologized for almost hitting him as I stuck the bumper in the back of my car.
This man, who I almost hit and then yelled at, pulled out his wallet and gave me 10 bucks.
“Be careful.” He said smiling kindly. He held my hand for a moment longer than necessary as he pushed the bill into my fist.
Then he got in his car and drove away, leaving me standing on the side of the freeway.
I don’t know if I took more from that encounter than was intended, but here is what it did for me. It gave me hope, an indelible hope that to this day prevents me from giving up on anyone, especially myself. It started me thinking again. His money got me across the bridge and home again. His act changed my life forever.
I call this guy an angel. I don’t believe in god. I have spirituality, but its more a vague concept. I’d like to say there was a white light surrounding him like Roma Downey at the end of an episode of “Touched by an Angel”, but there wasn’t. He was just a guy who must have seen something in me. And in seeing that in me, I was able to see that in myself.
That was the beginning of the end of that part of my life. I found a therapist, got on medication and slowly fixed that which was broken. By the time I was 25, life was infinitely better.
The reason I wanted to tell this story is because well, I have been feeling down. Not a deep dark depression, but like I said in my last post, down. (This is where it gets difficult for me. I don’t do sappy really well.)
I just want to thank you. Your comments and e-mails have really touched me. You made me feel better. I don’t always respond to comments because, believe it or not, I have a shy streak.
So to that end… Thank you, my angels on the Internet. You are more important than you can imagine.