fellow passenger

Almost twenty years ago, I sat in a half-full subway car on the O’Hare line, big sunglasses over my eyes, staring out the window and ruminating on some terrible news. I didn’t even know I was crying until the man sitting across the aisle from me gently, quietly, discreetly said, “I’m worried about you, miss.”

I smiled a little, shook my head, and told him I was fine. He nodded gravely. At my stop, we nodded and smiled again, both a little ruefully.

I wasn’t fine, but he couldn’t help me. No one could help me, because life sometimes brings sorrow and that’s just how it is.

Except that fellow passenger did help, just by reminding me that even strangers sometimes care about each other, and that the sorrow is outweighed by the caring. We are all traveling this road — at different paces and to different destinations, but we’re all on the same road, more or less.

I’ve never forgotten him. Thank you, fellow passenger.

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