A Streetcar Named Desire, Arizona, Blanche DuBois, Charlotte, Flagstaff, Greyhound Bus, Heart, Maureen Ryan Griffin, North Carolina, strangersihaveknown, Tennessee Williams, Total Stranger, Town, Wordplay
Guest Blog by Maureen Ryan Griffin (see below for her website.)
“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Not me, I remember thinking when I first heard these words spoken by the aging, broken Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’s play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
It wasn’t my nature to depend on anyone for anything. I’ve always been someone who “made it” on my own—I paid my own way, solved my own problems, followed my own counsel, the way I had right out of college when I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, far from home and family, for the sake of a relationship. No, even if things turned out badly, as they had then, no use depending on kindness from friends or strangers.
It took a stranger to change my mind.
I was twenty-four, and had just stumbled, bleary-eyed, off of a Greyhound bus I’d ridden straight from Flagstaff, Arizona, where I’d been visiting my brother, back to Charlotte. I lived alone, and my teacher’s salary barely covered my expenses. I was too proud to move back to my hometown, even if I was lonely, and not at all confident I could build a new life for myself without the man I’d thought I would marry.
The bus station was smack in the middle of downtown. None of the people I knew well enough to ask for a ride to my apartment were home when I called from a payphone. Down to my last few dollars, I picked up my suitcase and headed to Trade Street to catch a bus.
I asked the first driver who pulled up which bus would take me out Monroe Road.
“It’ll be awhile,” he said. “And this isn’t a good part of town. You’d better take a taxi.”
“Nah,” I said, “I’ll be fine. Just tell me which bus.”
He gave me and my tired suitcase a long look, then stepped down from his seat. “Here,” he said, reaching out to give me a ten-dollar bill. “Take a cab home.”
“I don’t want your money,” I said. “Honest, I can take care of myself.”
“Take it,” he said. “I won’t sleep well tonight if you don’t.” He shoved it into my hand, swung the bus doors shut on my objections, and drove off, leaving me stunned at his kindness to me, a total stranger. I know it’s a cliché, but he did restore my faith—maybe not in all humanity, but certainly in the fact that strangers could be incredibly kind. And that I mattered as a human being.
I wrote down his bus number with the best of intentions, but I never did hunt that kind man down to repay him.
I used to feel bad about this. But thirty-plus years later, I think it was for the best. Giving him back what he gave me might have swung the door to my bruised heart shut again, closed my mind to the knowledge that, while it’s good to depend on one’s own resourcefulness, it’s a sweet thing indeed to be cared about by a total stranger.
ABOUT THIS WEEK’S GUEST BLOGGER
MAUREEN RYAN GRIFFIN considers the work she does supporting people in creating well-crafted stories, memoir, essays, poems, and/or books both a joy and a privilege, believing, as authorJulia Cameron says, that “we are meant to midwife dreams for one another.” She has “midwifed” writing, publishing, and many other creative dreams for many people for nearly twenty years through a wide variety of venues including writer’s clubs, civic and other organizations, private women’s groups, bookstores, schools, and churches. She offers individual coaching and critique, as well as an expansive selection of retreats, workshops, and classes, through her business, WordPlay (www.wordplaynow.com).
An award-winning poetry and nonfiction writer, Griffin’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Texas Review, The Charlotte Observer, St. Anthony Messenger (Ohio), Potato Eyes (Maine), Kalliope (Florida), Chelsea (New York), Cincinnati Poetry Review, Catfish Stew (South Carolina), Catalyst (Georgia), and Calyx (Oregon). She is the author of Spinning Words into Gold, a Hands-On Guide to the Craft of Writing, I Will Never Forget You: A Ritual of Grief and Celebration, and two collections of poetry, This Scatter of Blossoms and When the Leaves Are in the Water. Her essay, “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin,” appears in Marlo Thomas’s The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2 (Atria Books, 2006) and her poem, “Such Foolishness,” is included in Thirteen (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003).