i was listening to a podcast, and this guy came up from behind and asked if i knew where this address was, holding up a slip of paper.
i took out my earbuds and recognized the place immediately. it’s the ywca downtown, kind of where i just picked up that bus.
i said yeah, i know exactly where that is. are you walking?
he said yeah. i said it’s about a 45 minute walk. he said that was fine. i said, it’s past chinatown and on the edge of downtown. he looked at me cluelessly. do you know chinatown?
he said no, i’m not from here. i don’t know where anything is. i said, okay, if you’re walking, just stay on this street, king street, and keep walking. you’ll know chinatown because all the lights are out on both sides of the street. next is downtown, the business district. keep an eye out for bishop street; it’s the main cross street downtown. the next street is alakea street–
he interrupted. alakea street? is that where the courthouse is?
i said yeah. the ywca is on the block between alakea street and richards street. if you see iolani palace, you’ve gone half a block too far.
i said if you have $2.50 you can ride a bus right to it in ten minutes.
he said, i just got out of prison. all i have on me is my clothes and this bible.
he had a shaved head and was wearing a thin tank top. i could see chest tattoos. he looked pretty young.
i said you just got out of prison today?
he said i just got out of prison now. twenty years.
i held out my hand, and he shook it. congratulations. i looked him in the eyes and said with complete sincerity, i hope you have a good rest of your life.
he said, i will. i will. thank you.
he showed me a slip of paper with two phone numbers on it. can you call one of these guys for me?
i handed him my phone and said hey, you can call them yourself if you’d like.
he just stared at my phone like he didn’t know what to do with it. duh.
i called the number. hey, is this joe? i have a guy here who wants to talk to you. hang on.
the guy had a short conversation with the other guy, asking him to call “mom” and ask her to meet him at that place where she goes.
i said tell her you’re about 45 minutes away and that you’re in front of farrington high school right now.
he repeated the info, gave me back the phone. i apologized and said i would totally give him bus fare but i was completely broke. it’s true; i’m down to my change jar until next monday evening, and i HAD three bucks in my pocket, but i’d just spent it on two cans of tomato paste and a bottle of water. i couldn’t even call him a lyft because i’m down to two bucks in my checking. ugh.
but i shook his hand again, repeated the directions, and wished him well. he thanked me and headed off.
i walked the rest of the way home because my transfer bus had come and i’d waved it off — the driver knows me and waved as he pulled away.
it’s faster to walk than to wait for the next bus.
as i walked home i took a moment to text joe, just saying i didn’t catch that guy’s name, but if he sees him, tell him i’ve said a little prayer for him.
i’m grateful that i was able to give him a little bit of a connection and a little bit of kindness. i wish i could have done more.