It was Monday morning and I was catching the 6 train to work a little later than I should. The door opened and I jumped in the train.

“Hey, would you like to sit here?” an elderly man enthusiastically offered me his seat.

“Oh, no thank you, I’m fine,” I replied with a smile. Why would I take his seat? I’ll be sitting at my desk all day anyway.

I studied him and guessed that he might be homeless. He was missing a few teeth, but otherwise looked healthy and clean. He had three or four plastic shopping bags packed with stuff, as homeless people usually have.

“You are fine,” he said, making me laugh and possibly blush a little.

“All women are fine,” he went on, maybe rectifying what could have come off as flirting. “That’s why it’s women who choose what man they want to be with and not the other way around.”

“That’s right!” I said with a chuckle.

6 train

Then he suddenly started offering me some relationship advice.

He said that if I wanted to find the right man, I'd have to first put him on probation for "90 or 100 days," and that during that probation period there should be “no wine or midnight dinners or even holding hands, 'cause that's for after probation.”

After probation, he said, I could have the man stay the night, but that it should be my decision and not his. "If he brings his pajamas, it should be because you asked him to. He shouldn't bring his pajamas without your permission." That made me laugh. I had never thought of the significance of pajamas in a courtship before.

I continued to quietly enjoy his advice. I felt like he was talking to me as if I were his granddaughter. There was no malice or condescension in his voice. It was tender and heartwarming. He looked back at me every so often to confirm that I was still listening.

I stood just a few steps away from him, looking at him and giving him my full attention while he spoke, totally aware of the fact that other people in the train were casting annoyed glances his way, hurriedly trying to drown out his voice by putting on their headphones. But he wasn’t being rude or loud or obnoxious. He just wanted to be heard. And he had the right to be heard with respect, like the human being that he is. So I listened.

As he went on with his advice, a girl who was sitting next to him (and regretting it) started fussing with her book on Greek philosophers, passive-aggressively denoting that his monologue was interrupting her concentration. The man noticed this and directly, but calmly, told her not to worry, that he was having a conversation with me. I nodded and smiled in approval. She got off at the next stop and the man continued talking to me.

But my stop was next and I looked out the window so as to signal that I was about to leave. I didn’t want to cut him off. He understood my signal and finished his thoughts on the probation period necessary to find a man who would not take me for granted.

“That is very good advice. Have a nice day, sir,” I said to him with a smile and left. He nodded and continued talking to no one in particular now that he was left without a conversation partner.

I wonder what he said next. Did he give advice to anyone else? Did they listen or did they roll their eyes and dismiss him?

I woke up the following day hoping I’d see him again, just so he could brighten my day once more.

T. Rosa

T. Rosa

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