In Of Leases and Mountains, I recited the outline of the recent times, troubles, and victories of this dynamic duo: Cuppa and Anvilcloud. We remain thankful that what could have been is not.
After our celebration over a coffee and cinnamon roll at Tim's, we decided to continue our joyful splurge by having supper at Boston Pizza. We had a lot of company in December and January, and one tends to cook and eat somewhat extravagantly when playing the host. In order to regain dietary control, I had intended to forego both company and dining-out for the entire month of February. In the event, I caved a day or two early, but it if there ever was time to celebrate this was surely it (and it was the last Friday of the month after all). Sometimes, you have to be flexible concerning your vows and rules lest in your rigidity you lose the joyous and spontaneous moments that are the salt of life.
Regardless: before heading from Tim Horton's to Boston Pizza, we made a quick trip to the grocery store where the strangest incident occurred — almost as if from the twilight zone . It seems to me that this strange encounter should be terribly significant to me in some way that I'm not quite able to fathom. Perhaps writing about it will help.
It was cold and sleety, and as we hurried from the car to the store, a young man accosted us from behind. I would say that he was about thirty, give or take. He said something like this: "Sir, you seem like a jolly sort of fellow."
How odd! I strike few as a jolly sort of fellow. In point of fact, I think I am rather jolly on the inside, but I know that I seldom look it on the outside. It's a bit of a family trait. I can remember once asking my mother if she was angry. She thought the question strange because she didn't feel at all angry. In fact, she felt fine. D2 also shares this propensity to look more serious than she feels. It's our mutual genetic heritage, it seems.
Perhaps I was whistling and perhaps that's what caused this fellow to think me rather "jolly." I simply don't know. I do know, however, that I am prone to whistle both in private and in public. Cuppa, however, can't recall that I was doing so at the time.
I would never make a reliable witness in court, which is to say that I can't really recall the exact words that were spoken. Nor do I recall the exact sequence of the exchange. But here are the broad strokes.
He asked us to do him a favour. I looked at him askance. What was his game? Was he high on drugs? Was he planning to dun me for a handout? He went on the ask us to love each other. He was in tears.
We stupidly asked more than once if was alright when clearly he wasn't. Why do people do that?
He continued to sob and again implored us to love each other.
"We do love each other. Can we help you? Do you want to talk? What can we do for you?"
He stood there: convulsing, sobbing, shaking his head, unable to say more. He soon left, running on his way to god knows where. I can't remember the final words before he parted. Did he say something more? Did we? I can't be sure.
Cuppa and I regarded each other in dumbfounded stupefaction. We were moved. What could we have done? What should we have done? It seemed profound somehow, or that it should have been profound. But he was gone, the moment forever vanished: vanished from the senses but never to ever be forgotten, I believe.
Shortly after, out of great and uncertain concern I reemerged from the store to look for him again, but he was still gone, perhaps still running and sobbing in agonizing despair.
What would cause this distraught fellow to stop us on that day of all days, on that day of utter relief and sweet reprieve, on that day when we had said that we would remain together in the battle no matter what the doctor's verdict? Had he just lost a loved one? Had he been jilted? Had he harmed or been harmed? Whatever the answer, he was surely a lost and bereft soul, and we could find no way to comfort him. If I had been immediately open rather than suspiciously alarmed, would I have found the right words? Could I have touched him, changed his life?
I'll never know the answers, but it feels like a seminal moment has just passed, and I don't know how to interpret it, how to learn from it, how to grow from it. If I believed in the visitation of angels I might be able to find a theological fit of sorts, but I still would be unsure of the message. It doesn't seem like a message that we need to hear right now because I think that we already know it, but it seems utterly vital nonetheless. Perhaps I could interpret it as a benediction on our love. But why the tears and despair?
I had to write about this stranger-than-fiction encounter, especially under these circumstances. But I fear that I am no closer to apprehending the lesson that I should learn from this brief moment in the twilight zone.