He's the runner from this story. Wiry and mousy, with very pale skin. Imagine a less handsome version of French character actor Dominique Pinon; or rather, don't. His glasses and balding pate give him the look of an off-duty high school professor. We're at 100th, and there's a woman outside. He steps out for a moment.
"Hi hi," he says to her. "Will you go home with me?"
She's taller and heavier than he is, in a business casual outfit. This is Motel Row, but she's definitely no streetwalker. Streetwalkers don't wear mohair sweaters and print blouses with slacks. Maybe I should've told him.
With no hint of fear, and trying to conceal laughter, she says, "no."
"You're not gonna go home with me?"
He scrambles back on the bus like a teenager returning from the girl's lunch table, turned down by his crush.
"Didn't work out?"
"She wouldn't go him with me."
"Well shoot, man."
"I can't go home alone."
Sometimes you just don't ask. I'd been laughing at him internally over the absurdity- the complete absurdity- of the situation, but I stopped when I heard the bracing honesty in his voice. He is lonely.
"I can sympathize with that," I said quietly, unsure of whether he heard me. More than one great writer has designated loneliness as the premier, fundamental element of the human experience, the motivating factor behind most actions and the sensation which paradoxically unites us all, in that we all feel it, surfacing and resurfacing. We do what we can to find belonging. Who among us hasn't searched blindly, in all the wrong places, for connection- with others, with God, with ourselves?