"You look so young!"
So says a middle-aged, dark-skinned gentleman with dreads down his back and a squat, muscled physique- the sort of built body that doesn't come from a gym, but is realized only through hard labor or combat.
"I am so young...for now!"
He's a compact bundle of energy, and I can't quite place his accent. Dark bruises cover his eyes.
"You smart young man, doin' this job! They don't give me no job when I come back from Afghanistan!"
"What?" I want to continue the conversation, but with the incoming tide of passengers he is swept behind me. We're at Third and Pine northbound. So many worlds, passing by in each person...
Up next is an older woman struggling with a few bags and a hefty traveling suitcase. Her hands are full, and she is flustered. I try to calm her.
"If only we had three hands, right?"
She laughs in agreement.
"Come on in, we can figure out the fare later. Looks like you've got enough to keep you occupied!"
Much later, when it comes time for her stop, she returns to the front and I ask if she's going abroad or coming home. The latter, she replies.
"Where are you returning from?"
"Connecticut. Visiting my daughter."
"Was it wonderful?"
"It was wonderful! And hot! Eighties, in fact!"
"In Connecticut, my goodness, I didn't know that was possible this time of year!"
"Hey. Thanks for being so kind when I was getting on. You've got a terrific attitude for this job."
"Oh. Thank you! That's the least I could do, really."
After she steps out, the man from earlier bounces up to the front. In practically the same breath which I bid the woman farewell, I slip back into conversation with him, reveling in the sudden transition.
"How's it goin'?"
"I been good, bro. You a good job you doin' a good job, goo' attitude. Renew your inner strength! Like the Qu'ran say! Let the spirit align with your qalb, inner heart nothing bother you. Stay strong within, in your heart renew, find the salam, then doesn't matter..."
He continues in a thickly accented and joyous jumble that defies comprehension. But I think I know what he means.
"Don't let the outside affect how you feel,"
"Yes yes! Stay strong on da inside, my fren!"
"Then you got nothing to worry about!"
"Exactly my brother! You have a good night, bye!"
He leaps off the bus with the same energy he had when he entered. I smile to myself. These two individuals had, in their own radically different approaches, expressed approximately the same thing- a celebration of a perspective they saw in me, likely because they possess that same outlook themselves.
Neither one might be the other's first idea for a coffee date, but the two of them have more in common then I imagine either one is aware. I'm not going to set them up, but I do find it comforting!
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