Two total strangers–me and this kid. I don’t even know what he looks like. I was driving down a very dark street, pre-dawn hours, the glow of the sun still behind the mountain. Was that a body I saw lying on the sidewalk? My heart skipped a beat. I stopped my car, backed up in the middle of the road and called out, “Hey! Are you okay!?” The body sat up quickly enough and answered, the voice coming from inside his dark hoodie, “Yeah, I’m just catchin’ some Z’s. Waitin’ for my ride to school.” I had a few teenagers of my own, and easily recognized that early morning exhaustion. Satisfied, I drove on.
But then there was the next day, and the next. Each morning under the light of that exact same streetlamp, this young man was dozing off on the sidewalk, waiting for a car I never did see. It just seemed like somebody ought to tell him, “Have a good day!” Maybe they did. Maybe every morning he left the house with his mother handing him his backpack and his wheat toast, wishing him well. Maybe that very morning his dad was repairing the ignition switch on his son’s car, so he could drive it to school himself someday.
I didn’t know. But I did know I was driving past him every morning. And each time I did, I would honk. Just a little *tap tap* Not to jar him awake, but to let him know I saw him. That he was there, going somewhere, breathing, alive.
On about Day Four of this schoolday encounter, as I approached The Boy on the sidewalk, I did my usual “Beep Beep!” To my surprise and delight, he raised one arm high in the air. He waved! Then he flopped it back down on the cement again. From that day on, it was routine. I honk, he waves. Next day, I honk, he waves. Never sitting up; oh no! Just lying there motionless, throwing one arm in the air, and acknowledging that he heard me pass by.
This lasted pretty much the entire school year, and when summer came, the Heart Hinge was gone. [see “What’s a Heart Hinge?” ofoneheartblog.WordPress.com ] I still remember this exchange as a silly, spontaneous Connection where two strangers could have been completely oblivious of each other, but were not. My own teens have grown and have kids of their own, so that’s been how many years –?! I suppose he has children of his own now, too. I hope he takes them to school sometimes, and hands them their backpacks as they climb out of the car. I hope he tells ’em, “Have a good day.”