On the commute back from work, the trains are split into the ones going towards the city, and going towards the airport. Generally I like dividing my train ride in two; get on the airport-bound train and get off half way through, so I have two small wait periods instead of one big one. One day as I got off the airport-bound train, a man rushed up the escalator, but was a few seconds too late. He looked dejected as he asked me which train that was.
When I informed him that it was the airport train, there was a hint a relief in his features. It was the equivalent of finding change in your couch as we go through the biggest economic crisis of our lifetime. I wanted to give the man a hug - he had lots of anxiety, his appearance was disheveled, and despite me being a chemist who's robbed of the majority of his olfactory factory, there was a familiar sweet scent about him.
"I'm going to be late, goddamnit I'm going to be late, she's going to kill me," he repeated over and over.
"The train will be here in a few minutes," I offered, "and the duration of the ride to the end won't be that long," but he wasn't having it.
Then the small talk began
"Were you coming from school?"
"So you hand out drugs at the pharmacy?"
"This train's a beaut isn't she"
I had been waiting, but before long, he revealed that his wife was being discharged from the hospital from her first round of chemo, and that she was currently stuck with her mother. I've learned from experience that at this moment, the conversation's his - no OMGs, no I'm sorrys, no anecdotes - it was his story to tell.
"I'm complaining too much, God, why am I so selfish."
"Because it's tough on you too. In the next while she's going to need you to be there for her, and right now, for the one second, you need someone to be there for you"
Hospital cots, gift shops, bad coffee
"You sound like you understand"
Been there, done that, cried a bit
"Does it get easier?"
"There is nothing easy about watching your love ones fighting for their lives, with their lives, while you sit on the sidelines, where there's literally nothing you can do to contribute to the fight."
If you take away all the hateful messages, a little bit of me could understand what Christie Blanchford was getting at here. Our society has been shaped by men who don't cry in front of others, so when it does happen, it has the same effect as an unseen left hook.
After he recovered, he became a little more composed.
"Can you smell the alcohol on me?"
Gum was offered
"I usually don't drink, but that seems like it's all I've been doing for the past week"
The duration of the ride between the second to last to last station was a silent one. He started getting antsy again. I put my hold on the side of his arm.
Godspeed, and good luck.