#423: Death and the Banana

January 9th, 2015

I wear sunglasses a lot. I guess that’s where to start.

I was wearing them Saturday, when I stood on the corner of Armitage and Western, waiting for the bus to take me west so I could visit that locksmith I wrote about on Monday.

A man walked up to the bus stop. He was older, white, with a fussy little mustache, a big satchel and a visually busy stocking cap perched on top of his head.

He looked for the bus, started plucking at the fingers of his glove, looked for the bus, then looked at me.

“You know, movie stars used to wear sunglasses all the time,” he said.

His voice was very 1970s camp. We spoke for a bit in friendly terms about classic Hollywood. I helped him remember a film star whose name was escaping him.

The bus came. We sat in different sections.

Then, that moment. The “Oh crap, this guy’s going the same place I am” moment city-dwellers know.

We both got off at the Ashland stop underneath the highway. Trudge trudge across the street to wait in the bus shelter.

We waited next to a guy who I give 80-20 odds of being a street person.

“Did you eat breakfast?” the man with the fussy little mustache asked me, reaching toward his satchel in a way I knew meant he was going to get something out of it.

“No thanks,” I said pre-emptively.

He looked a little hurt.

“I was just going to offer you a banana!” he said.

I smiled and smoothed the situation. When the bus came and picked us up, I like to think there were no hard feelings between us.

A man in Colorado Springs detonated a homemade bomb outside the offices of the NAACP on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, armed gunmen in Paris stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper and murdered 12 people for the crime of making “Family Guy”-level jokes.

The world is sad and horrible. I want to live in one where kindness is also an option. I want to live in a world where comical strangers can introduce themselves, say strange, witty things and offer you a banana.

Then I remembered: I do.

It’s cold comfort when the horrors of the world are bombings, assassins and death and the kindness is a banana I didn’t end up taking, but there are kindnesses. They exist.

I just flipped through some poems for an artsy-fartsy way to end this. Walking back to my computer, the only quote possible here just came to me. It’s from Kurt Vonnegut, in a scene where his character Eliot Rosewater is talking about what people should say when baptizing infants.

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”

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