Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Afternoon and evening

A bus is coming and I’m not going to make it. I’m carrying groceries and I still have at least 20 meters to the stop. I’m half running and turn my head to check my progress against that of the bus. I see it pulling right in front of me. The doors open. The driver is smiling “Come on, Hon!” – I step inside and smile in return. “Thank you, thank you”. The bus is crowded with kids out from school. There are three kids talking about 9/11. Almost three years already. For them it was such a long time ago. “Where’re you from?” The question brings me back to the driver. I smile. “From France. How could you tell? All I said was “Thank you”.
“That was enough” he is laughing – the last sound of his sentence is almost like a song. “Enoooooouuugh”. I replay the sound in my head.
We talk. Regular stuff. Do you like it here? Where are you from in France? How long?
I do love it here. People are much nicer. He is from North Carolina. He does not agree. "People here are all right, but back home, they are real nice." Again the “real” is long, like a song.
The kids come out of the bus. I see them entering a convenient store.
I get off soon after. This was not my bus.

I just stepped out and saw someone getting off a cab. I intended to walk but it is hard to resist such call of fate.
I open the door. The driver tells me apologetically “I’m going to have to stop somewhere. Now”. As soon as he said that, he stops the car and gets out. We’re still in front of my place. I am a bit puzzled but stay silent. He comes back and we’re on our way. The incident has broken the ice. We talk. I tell him I’m on my way to deliver French cheeses to a friend. I brought them back from a recent trip home. He is quite stunned and amused. I am a stranger for him. A French wacko who brings cheeses back despite strict custom regulations and all the places to get excellent cheese in town.
The silence comes back in the car.
We pass a restaurant and he honks to a guy standing there in front. I ask him if this is a friend or a customer. A friend, he says, a lawyer who’s real nice. I play it blind and laugh about the oxymoron “A nice lawyer! Really!!”. I am on autopilot. Scripted reactions to avoid thinking. This is when he gets me. “You know” I hear now “one should only look at the individual. No as part of a group. No one deserves to be blamed collectively”. There is nothing I can reply to that except that he is right. That I am in this country because a lawyer helped me navigated the intricacy of the system. She helped so many others in more dire situations and she helped me. For free. Not a single penny. I owe her my current life. He is beaming. He tells me that the guy he saluted also is helping him after bad time. I think jail. He says he lost his job before becoming a taxi driver and that he wanted it back or being at least compensated for it. This lawyer is also working pro-bono. Helping him out. We keep talking about the people who makes a difference in the life of others. The ones like these two lawyers.
The meeting place for the cheese exchange is fast approaching. He pulls in a parking spot and exit the car to shake my hand. We exchange names and the confession that we contributed to each other’s day. Why did I think “Jail”?