Of Transitions And Humanity

It was the week of her move back into the city and the start of her new job when she caught the flu. She paid extra money to stay in a private bedroom at the Air Bnb rather than in the dorm room. She’d stayed there before when she was in between places and didn’t mind sleeping in a bunk bed, but when one is sick they really need their own space.

On her first night there, she sleepily ventured into the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea to soothe her sore throat. Her intention was to avoid everyone until she felt better, because, well, who doesn’t feel gross and antisocial when they’re feeling sick?

As the tea boiled, one of the guys staying in the dorm walked in.

“Are you making tea?” He asked softly.

“Yes,” she said tiredly. “I’m sick though so watch out.”

She covered her mouth, conscious of her red nose and chapped lips. He didn’t even flinch.

“So where are you from?” He asked.

“I’m from here, actually, just in between places, but I’m from Ontario originally.”

“Hey me too. I’m from Barrie. Well, you look like a professional woman.”

He looked her up and down. She was wearing a knee-length black dress. He was young with the look of someone who had experienced more than your average fifty-year-old. She’d seen that look few times. He had black hair and sharp brown eyes. He was handsome, but didn’t seem to view himself that way. She was curious to know more about him, but it wasn’t the right time. She needed sleep and her head was pounding from a nasty headache.

“I’m sorry, but I’m pretty feverish right now. I need to head back and get some sleep.”

“Could I have just 30 more seconds of your time?” He asked quickly.

Despite her exhaustion, she laughed. “Ah, you’ve been in sales before haven’t you?”

“You could say that.”

Together they walked back to the common area which was close to her room. She bid him goodnight and disappeared into her cocoon. That night he slept on the couch facing her room instead of in the dorm. She didn’t think too much about it. Maybe he found it more comfortable.

After a few days of a miserable battle with the flu, she started to feel better. Happy, she did her makeup and put on a cute dress. Making her way to the front door, she bumped into the young man from the other night.

“Hey, where are you from?” He asked, as though he hadn’t remembered asking her. Maybe she really did look like another person when she was ill.

She told him where she was from and he told her once again that he was also from Ontario. It was nice to feel more sociable again after several days of barely leaving her room. When she returned to the cozy home after a quick errand run, she made some tea and he walked over to start a conversation. He told her some personal things about his past, much like the first time they talked.

Then they started to talk more about happiness. He said he always wanted to have a few kids; she said she never really wanted kids. He grew stern. She tried to change the topic to something lighter, but his frown deepened and his stare intensified as though he was the adult and she was the child.

“I know who I am and I don’t need to prove myself to him,” she thought silently.

“We’re programmed to want to pass on our genes,” he pressed.

“I know, but we also have logic. Some of us realize we don’t want kids.”

“Yeah, but there’s still a small part in your mind that wants you to have a baby,” he said, pointing to his own head.

There it was again. His need to gain the upper hand and remind her that she didn’t know as much as she thought she did.

She shrugged. “I suppose so, but then my own desires take over.”

As they moved over to talk on the couch, he relaxed and spoke more of his upbringing. He didn’t have a good start to life and while he didn’t say it point blank, she could tell he might have been through the criminal justice system. A big part of her wanted to hug him, to tell him he was worthy of love, but she didn’t know him well enough, and another part of her knew it wouldn’t be a wise move. Still, she hoped to be a positive influence on him of some kind. Her cousin had recently passed from a fetanyl overdose after being homeless for a period of time and she vowed to do more for the community when it came to poverty and addiction. Now she was speaking with someone right in front of her who was navigating his way out of homelessness. She was impressed with his efforts to find work and keep a roof over his head.

The next day, he started a new job through a short term employment agency and she was very happy for him. At dinner time, she asked him how it went and he said he’d hit it off well with the other guys on the construction site and was keen to go back. It made her smile seeing him happy. In turn, he asked how her round of job interviews went and she had good news – all the interviews went well. She lost her original job due to falling ill, but she was positive about finding something else soon.

The energy between that evening was light and fun as they talked and laughed over their meal. They were both in a season of change. Perhaps his was more extreme in the sense that he was moving on from homelessness to building a new life, but she could relate to starting over again on a smaller scale.

The next day was filled with phone calls and errands as she prepared to move in to her new apartment. It was a rainy day and while she loved the rain, her coat had soaked through from all the outdoor walking.

“Rather than make another trip to my new apartment I’m just going to head home to the Air Bnb.”

The thought of being back in the Air Bnb made her relax. Soon she would have another conversation with her new friend. In fact, she couldn’t wait to get back and see him.

When she started to cook dinner, he emerged in the kitchen. The conversation started light then became deeper. They had a similar mindset in a lot of things, yet some beliefs weren’t shared. He started to get riled up about the fact she identified as atheist.

“You’re allowed to believe what you believe. I did my searching on the matter years ago so I’m at peace with it now.”

“Well how do you explain how everything was created?” He snapped. “Someone had to create something.”

“Well actually at some point something had to come from nothing. That’s my opinion, but no one knows for sure.”

She felt her heart racing, but understood why he was defensive. She had once believed everything he was saying. She stayed calm, realizing it was more important to acknowledge his beliefs than argue about what was right or wrong. His anger didn’t last for long and the conversation relaxed again.

“Do you think a sociopath or psychopath is evil?” He asked.

“No. I think they’re human,” she replied.

He seemed happy with that answer.

They gravitated to the window as the conversation simmered down and they took a moment to watch the fog. It was very moody and beautiful that evening. Then they migrated to the comfortable couches and talked about the simple life and true happiness.

“Sometimes all someone needs is to be reminded that they’re human,” he said. “Even a small gesture of kindness can turn their day around. It shows that they’re worthy of people’s time and happiness… and that’s why we all do what we’re doing. It’s about wanting to be happy.”

“That’s so true.”

“This is like a therapy session. Us talking here right now.”

“I agree. It’s so helpful to bounce things off someone. I admit I feel a little guilty that I didn’t pursue my therapist career. I loved the courses, but can’t see myself as a true therapist.”

“You’re doing great,” he said kindly. “Keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy what makes you happy.”

For so long she wished that someone would say that to her. She smiled.

“Thank you for saying that.”

“Yup. You’ve got a long life ahead of you and it’s going to be good,” he said, looking off to the distance in an almost forlorn way.

The next morning, he was gone for work. It was her last day there and it seemed to sneak up without warning. Before leaving, she left an avocado and bag of tea for him on the table. There was no paper to write him a note, but she hoped he knew it was for him since she said she wanted to make him a tea one time. With them always being caught up in an interesting or intense conversation, she never thought to ask for his contact information until she was faced with the reality that it was time to move on.

Sometimes you’re so in the moment that you aren’t thinking of the future that’s just beyond it. Of course, the Air Bnb is not a true long term home and soon enough he would move on to his own place as well.

Sitting in her new bed in her new room, she smiled at the memory of their interactions and conversations. She was grateful to have met him at the right place and time even though it hit her hard how sad she was that they wouldn’t be having any more of their deep evening conversations.

She showed him he was human. He showed her that she was on the right track and doing just fine.

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