It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
IWSG Question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?
IWSG Short Answer: I didn’t say, “Thank you.”
In June of last year, I was on my own in France, I didn’t speak a word of French, and Rick (my husband) was on morphine in a nearby hospital. Today’s challenge: find the bus to his hospital and put money on my cell phone.
Head down I studied my wrinkled map and hoping it I was moving in the general direction of the bus stop and phone store. I sensed someone walking in step beside me. I was instantly on guard. I glanced to my left and there was a somewhat disheveled young man with a shaggy hair cut, a tired backpack strapped to his back, and wearing frayed sneakers.
My first thought, “Is he homeless?”
He asked, in English tinged with a French accent, “Can I help you with your map?” I asked myself, Do I accept his help? Can I trust this young man? I’m on high alert remembering the time I gave a friendly smile to a stranger and damn near got raped.
I decided my need for help was greater than my safety.
I glance over and say, “I’m trying to get to the Orange phone store and put money on my cell phone. Can you find it on my map?”
I hand him the crumpled map, he looks at it and turns it 90 degrees. He says, “See the railroad station over there?”
He nods to our right. Then points to the railroad line on the map, and says “Now where we are standing is in alignment with the railroad tracks.”
I think to myself, “Duh, I’m so stupid. How did I miss the railroad tracks?”
With the map oriented to the railway station, he pointed to a street a few blocks away, “The Orange store is there, let’s go.”
I said, “The owner of the Inn, where I’m staying, gave me this map and told me to stay on this street, walk three blocks, and turn left.”
He said, “This is a short cut.”
“Do I go with him?”
After about a five-minute walk, I see the Orange store up ahead in the middle of the block.
He says, “I’ll go in with you to make sure you get what you pay for.”
I thought, “Be careful, he’s probably going to pick your pocket. Don’t let him see how many Euros you have in your wallet.”
We finish my transaction and back on the sidewalk, he asks, “Where are you going?”
I reply, “I’m taking the bus to the hospital to see my husband.”
He said, “I’m going to the hospital, too.”
Now I’m convinced he’s going to tell me his Hard Luck story and try to separate me from my money.
We boarded the bus and pay the fare. The bus is fairly empty, I settle on a bench seat and he sits across from me. Convinced he wanted money, I offered him two Euros for his help. He refuses and says he goes to the hospital twice a month.
I turn from gazing out the window and ask, “Are you a hospital volunteer?”
He kinda shrugs and says, “My kidneys are failing, so I go in for renal tests.”
Looking at my shoes, I say, “I’m so very sorry.” I lift my chin and ask, “How are you doing?”
He replies, “I’m OK. I have my own place and my parents live nearby.”
I asked, “Do you have a job?”
He replies, “No, I’m on disability. My biggest joy in life is helping strangers.”
I say to myself, “And I thought he might rape me!”
Suddenly, my mind sparkles with insight and fresh understanding.
We look at each other and I know I can trust him.
The bus stops at the hospital and we get off. Silently, we walk together toward the hospital and before we go our separate ways, I turn and say, “Take care of yourself.”
I stepped into the elevator and punched the second floor button. As I ascend, I realize I was so consumed with fear and distrust, I didn’t ask his name or even thank him.