Awkward Moment at the Red Light

Awkward Moment at the Red Light

A Story by .Because.I.Said.So.

 There's always that awkward moment when you're riding in a car, and you look through your window and at the car next to yours, and the person in that car does the same. There's always that awkward moment when you look at make eye contact with that person, and you hastily turn away as to not seem creepy, or give them the appearance that maybe you were staring. That' wouldn't be good at all.
Yet sometimes, during that supposedly awkward moment, you can't find yourself looking away. Sometimes, you just have too keep looking, because even though there's two glass windows and three feet between you, you can see something in the other person. Sometimes, you can see happiness, as if that person is on a vacation, or just ecstatic to be alive.
Sometimes, you see boredom, or a deep longing to be doing something -- anything -- other than what they're doing at that moment. Whether they're going to work, or going home, or even going out with a few friends, there's a deep longing to know what's out there in the world, and wondering if they're missing out on so much.

Much less common than either of these, however, is when you catch someone at their most vulnerable moment. When their facades are gone, their walls are down, and they think no one can see them, and they just sit at the red light, waiting for it to turn green, and they think. 'What are they think about?' you'll find yourself wonder. 'What is going on in their lives, that makes them look so unhappy to be living, or so upset they don't know if they'll make it another day, let alone another week.' You'll find yourself captivated. Entranced. Wondering why on Earth you can't look away.
Let me tell you.
Even though that person will be a complete stranger, you'll have to know what's going on in their heads. You'll want to know if they'll make it another day. Another week. Another month. Another year. You'll need to make sure they're going to fight whatever it is they're going through.

Then, much too soon, you'll think, the light turns green, and that gaze is pulled away from your own. They'll drive forward, in the same direction as you, and you'll wonder if it's a coincidence. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, you'll follow.
What will happen next is a complete surprise. You'll be driving behind them now, too deep in thought to take much note of it. You're mind will be too cluttered with the emotions you had seen in the other person's eyes. In fact, you'll be thinking about it so hard that, at first, you don't realize that they're stopping. Blinkers on, speed reducing. Their car will be moving oddly, and it will take you a minute to see the flat tire. They'll come to a full stop maybe twenty feet ahead of you, right in front of a diner. You won't pay attention to the name. At least, not yet.

You'll pull over right behind them, hoping to help, but barely missing the back of their car, about three, maybe four feet behind. That won't stop you, however. You'll leave the car on, with the stereo blaring some CD with a song that, at the time, has no meaning to you. Maybe something cheesy, or something you've heard millions of times before, but never took the time to really listen to.

Then, you'll open your door, the same time they will. The look on their face will be a mix of pain, desperation, and complete despair. You'll see stress in every fiber of their body. You'll be determined to make it go away. You won't know this stranger, but it doesn't matter anymore. Something inside of them will be screaming silently, begging to be set free, and you won't be able to put your finger to it just yet.
“Do you need help?” you'll ask. They'll give you a look of complete surprise, then gratitude.

“Please,” they'll reply.

You'll reach into your back pocket and clutch your phone. You'll dial some local towing company, and hand it to them, instructing them to just press that little green 'send' button, and they will. They'll talk to whatever person or machine answers the call for ten minutes, maybe a few more. You won't be counting, you'll be observing them. You'll be watching the emotions -- too many to count, too many to decipher -- spread across their face and disappear just as fast. They'll hang up, and then hand you back your cell phone, expressing gratitude that maybe no one has ever shown you before. You'll ask what time the company will send someone with a spare tire, and they'll tell you. It will probably be about half an hour, but who knows in these situations.

You'll offer them coffee at the diner beside you. You might even offer to help them push their vehicle -- most likely a big, red pickup truck -- into the parking lot. They'll laugh it off at first, not believing that you're serious, but another glance at your face will convince them otherwise. They'll accept. 'Why not?' they'll ask themselves. You seem friendly enough to them.
First, you turn your car off and grab your keys, locking it from unwanted hijackers. The song playing earlier having ended long before. They'll tell you nervously that you don't really need to help them push their car, that it's not technically illegal for it to be where it is, and then you both leave it at that.

The diner will be nice. It won't be some chain restaurant like IHOP or Dunkin' Donuts. It'll be something quiet, most likely family-owned. Just the way you both like it. You'll be asked if you'd prefer a booth or a table. Booth will seem like the obvious choice, and it is, for both of you, and that's where you'll be led to.

You'll still probably have about twenty minutes, so you'll both order your coffee. You'll tell them that, should they want to, they could order something to eat. They'll smile, and thank you, but they'll decline. They won't be used to kindness. Especially not coming from random strangers.

The coffee will be there almost immediately, unsurprisingly. Coffee is one of those things waiters always seem to be holding, waiting to offer it to customers even if they don't really need it quite yet. You'll both thank the waiter (or waitress, you won't pay much attention to that yet, either), and ignore the weird glance he or she gives you both.

They won't take cream in their coffee. They say it dilutes it. Ruins the point. You'll disagree, but you won't take the subject any farther than that for now. They'll thank you again, nervously, because you'll be too engrossed in studying them to say anything. They won't notice. They'll be looking around the diner, trying to find anything to focus on as to not embarrass themselves.

That song.
That one little song that will play in the car as the person in front of you had to stop due to car troubles. That one song that will in the diner on repeat for the whole thirty minutes that you two will sit in the diner for. You won't mind. The more it plays, the more you'll come to understand and appreciate the lyrics.

You'll talk with them for the whole time that you wait. You'll ask what they do for a living. You'll ask what their hobbies are. Maybe they'll ask you a few questions in return. You'll answer honestly, finding no reason to lie. What are the chances you'll ever meet again, anyway?

Their eyes. That's all you'll be able to watch. Maybe they'll be green. Maybe blue. It won't matter. All that matters is the experiences, the feelings, the pain behind them. They'll have suffered for years. From what, you won't expect to know. After all, past losses and hurts rarely come up during the first conversation between any two people.

Yet, during the conversation, you'll see something change in those eyes. You probably won't be able do decipher it quite yet, but their answers will become a bit more open. Less guarded. They'll start to trust you, the stranger who, for some unknown reason, decided to stop in their time of need, offer them your services, and then a cup of coffee with a nice talk about trivial things. No one will have ever done that for them. No one will have ever cared.

That's the beautiful thing about strangers. Meeting strangers is like picking fruit from a tree while being blindfolded. The tree is a tree of every fruit. Peaches, oranges, apples. Everything. Sometimes, you'll pick a large, rotten one, but you made a deal with the tree to eat whatever you pick, so you'll be forced to eat all of it, until you can finally let it go. Sometimes it hurts, letting go of something you've known for a while, but in the end, maybe it'll be beneficial.

Other times, you'll find a beautiful fruit, but it will be small, like meeting a stranger who is less fortunate than you, but still manages to be kind to everyone they meet. It will be a fleeting relationship. Perhaps they helped you pick up something they dropped, or maybe they just gave you a small little smile, but it will be beautiful all the same. But alas, all things must end, and that small little fruit you had wanted to never be finished will have to be gone.

And yet, there will always be the one fruit that you will be able to eat forever. It's large enough to last a lifetime, and delicious enough to never want to let go of. It's miraculous. Enchanting.

You'll never know what kind of fruit you'll get until you have it, you see, but once it's picked, you'll add it to your basket and carry it home, wondering what sort of treasures or rotten things you've picked for yourself to eat.

This particular stranger that will sit before you, just two feet in front of you, sipping their coffee, will be that last kind of stranger, but you'll have yet to realize it. You'll think maybe it'll just be a short and sweet sort of meeting, but you'll probably be wrong. Or, maybe, I'm wrong. Who knows?

Through the diner window, you will be the first to notice the towing company's logo. You'll point it out to the stranger, and they'll glance at it, a small look of disappointment lingering in their eyes. You'll wonder what it means, briefly, before standing up. The stranger will offer to pay for their own drink, but you shake your head forcefully. They have enough troubles, you'll point out. They'll give you a small smile and won't push it any further. Sometimes, it's easier to accept kindness and just let it pass.

The towing company has a spare tire. One of the cheap ones that are only meant to last for a few weeks in order to give people enough time to get it changed themselves. They'll change it for the stranger, and you'll wait patiently, offering your services whenever it seems needed. Occasionally, they will be.

The company will try to give the bill to the stranger, but you intercept them before they can. You tell them that the stranger is a close friend of yours. You'll take care of it. They don't seem to ponder on it much more. They'll want to get home to their own families, anyway. They'll hand you the bill, and then leave.

The stranger will be waiting by your own vehicle, rubbing their hands nervously through their hair, on their arms. Innocent little ticks everyone does.

“Thank you,” they'll say again. They'll want to make sure you know how grateful they'll truly be. You'll tell them it's no big deal, and that anybody would have done it. Empty words only meant to relax them.

They'll head towards their car, and they'll sit inside. The ignition will be on by this time.

Just about the time they'll be closing their door, and you yours, you think.

Will you really just leave it at this? Will you really just have one conversation with this stranger, then leave them to fend the world off alone?

No, you won't.

You'll find a scrap of paper and a blue pen from random places in your car, and scribble down a few numbers. Ten digits. Ten digits that will change everything, for you, and for the stranger.

Just as the stranger will be about to drive away, you'll rush to their driver's side window, and knock. They'll open the window curiously, not knowing of your plan just yet.

“Just in case,” you'll say, handing them the paper. This time, it will be your turn to be nervous. You'll be afraid of what they'll think or do. They could do anything at this point. Slap you, reject you.

Or, they'll take the slip, and put it somewhere safe. They'll slip it in their pocket, their glove box, anywhere. They'll smile, and right then, you'll know. They'll call you. Why wouldn't they?

You'll be about to turn away, and they'll call after you.

“I don't even know your name,” they'll declare. You'll have to tell them. In return, they'll tell you theirs. Then, it will finally be time to part ways.

You'll go home. You'll make yourself dinner, and maybe even grab a drink. Why not? You'll have a lot to think about.

The phone will ring. You'll wonder who it could be, calling you at that hour, but you'll answer.

It'll be the stranger from earlier. The stranger you helped save. In more ways than one. They'll just want to call you, to tell you exactly what you did, and that they weren't saying thank you just for the coffee and phone call. They'll call you to say thank you, because you were a complete stranger, and so were they, but you knew that something inside of them was so lost, you had to make sure they were okay. If you hadn't have made that one little awkward moment of eye contact at that one casual red light, who knows?
Maybe you wouldn't have had coffee again the next morning. Or the morning after that. Or any morning for the rest of your lifetimes. Maybe they wouldn't have even made it the next few hours. Maybe they would have done something stupid, just to fill in the gap of their lives that they somehow couldn't fill. All those maybe's, that you changed with just one kind gesture.

That one life you managed to save, with just a red light, a phone call, a cheesy love song, and a cup of coffee. 

© 2013 .Because.I.Said.So.

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Added on November 25, 2013
Last Updated on November 25, 2013



Kanab, UT, UT

Hi! I love writing. Poetry, books, stories, songs, most everything. I may not be good, but I love it, and FYI, I'm proud of my work, no matter what anyone says! I decided that if YOU don't like it, D.. more..

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