Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where are they now?

I've met many people in this life of mine that I've spent trotting around the globe, recently on my own. I wonder about the ones whom I shared moments with for a while or even just a few minutes and then went our separate ways, never to meet again. Some of them made me happy when I needed to be made happy, and they never even knew it. I wonder where they are now and if they remember me as I remember them:

Florence worked with security in the building across from the Empire State Building that housed the office of Guideposts magazine. She was a middle-aged black woman from Trinidad & Tobago whom I chatted with when I visited the staff at Guideposts on my magical 2007 New York trip. I never saw her again.

The black UPS mailman rode around the Oklahoma State University campus every day in his black truck and brown uniform. I met him as a desk clerk in my residence call where he would drop by everyday on his rounds delivering mail. It was one of my duties as a desk clerk to receive and distribute mail in the mailboxes of the buildings' residents. I can't remember the mailman's name - was it Robert? He was a gentleman and would great me with a compliment and a smile every time. Even after I stopped working at the residence hall, we'd wave and greet each other everytime his truck passed me by anywhere, on-campus or off. He made me feel like a pretty lady. I left OSU in 2005. I never saw him again.

A dusky and statuesque waitress was serving me that late night at the no-name Los Angeles diner. She wore a stereotypical turquoise waitress outfit that went down to her knees, complete with a white apron and white wrap cloth tiara on her crown. She looked Hispanic. Her hair was long, black, and thick, and her skin was the colour of hot chocolate. Her lipstick was a soft dark brown. She asked me where I was from. I said India. Her eyes lit up and she smiled. She was from Bangladesh, she said. She told me her name and I told her mine. We were both Muslims. I looked around the dimly lit diner with its plastic covered seats and plastic-covered menus. What was this beautiful woman doing here, so far away from home, in this town full of freaks and perverts? I never saw her again.

The old woman who looked like she was made of wet white paper was looking at me expectantly, her eyes shining. I told her I liked her gold pendant and that she looked pretty. She clasped her hands and her voice shook. "Oh, honey..." she said as she smiled, her eyes never away from my face. The other university kids who were part of my volunteer group in Stillwater stood a few feet away from us, nervous and uncomfortable in the old folk's home. They were all young, all under 20, and the smell of death, decay, and napthalene made them uneasy. Maybe it's because they were American, or maybe I was used to being around old people, but I felt more comfortable at the home than with them. We didn't stay at the home for more than 10 minutes. I met that old woman in 2000. I never saw her again.

My friend and I were buying movie tickets for the new Mr. Bean movie at the AMC near Times Square. I noticed that the counter had the new Master Card smart card reader installed. I got excited and began to hum the tune of the commercial, a funny little ad that had had the card reader beeping to the tune of Strauss's 'Blue Danube'. The young black fellow working at the counter sang with me. We all laughed. I never saw him again.

When I was in kindergarten in Muscat in the early 80s, our school had hired elderly Omani women to help the teachers take care of the little children. I spent many hours sitting in the lap of the old Omani woman in my class. She was short, strongly built, dark, and had a wide nose. Sh wore colourful cotton Omani clothes. I remember her in a dark green and black outfit. A long scarf covered her hair, and the only parts of her body that were visible were her chubby hands and feet and her face. She didn't speak much. She didn't know any English or much Hindi or Urdu, and the Indian children, most of them South Indian, didn't know any Arabic but only smatterings of English and mostly Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Telegu, Tamil, Kannada, etc. I never saw her again.

The tall strawberry-blonde young Irish fellow at the Navy Pier in Chicago was selling t-shirts and bags that changed colour in sunlight. I didn't want to buy anything, but he stopped my mother and I and laughed and joked as he kept talking about how he was a terrible salesperson and wasn't able to sell anything. He kept saying that he was just visiting his uncle from Ireland. He wouldn't stop talking and smiling, telling me that I probably wore t-shirts sized small. After 10 minutes, we had spent 40 dollars at that stall. The young Irishman gave me strawberry candy and thanked me for making him feel better about his selling skills, even though he was a terrible salesman. I kept that candy, wrapped in its strawberry designed wrapper, for many years after that. I never saw him again.

The middle-aged professor burst into the Microform Media Room where I worked at the university library in Stillwater and exclaimed at me, "Hello there, young person!!!" I leapt from my chair, all the sluggishness and frustration of my life instantly banished as an unknown optimism burst into existence in my chest. The clouds suddenly cleared and the sun shone on me as I realised I wanted to smile and didn't want to sit anymore. I asked the professor how I could help him. I never saw him again.

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