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The Lord Provides
By Luna Lark
I am the poster child for impromptu trips. I have bought bus tickets three hours before departure—exactly ten minutes after deciding I want to get away and without having packed so much as a clean pair of socks. Oh, and did I mention still having to bike three miles uphill to get to the bus depot? While critics may call this a questionable life choice, I say it's helped me see and do things I wouldn't have experienced otherwise.
Once on a bus ride from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, I met a man convinced he had found his true love. That true love was not me. The bus had just pulled into a dark lot in Baltimore when this fellow of red eyes, tattooed arms, and a maroon T-shirt boarded. The bus was already crowded with sketchy characters and I was sitting next to about the only free seat. I was okay as long as I had the window seat. And since this guy didn't yank me by the shoulders and put me in the aisle seat so he get a view of the freeway, I still did. So far, so good.
The man and I got to talking. I was so used to talking to strangers on buses by this point that I thought nothing of it. You can tell your bus buddy your deepest, darkest secrets, unless you happen to be a serial killer or big-time drug dealer. If I were you, I'd keep those confessions to myself. Otherwise, blab on, but, more importantly for storytellers, take time to listen.
This man clearly was not into listening, which was fine because he had me hooked. He had just gotten divorced and he was taking the bus to see a woman in Chicago, a woman he fell madly in love with one week into his engagement. A mutual friend had invited both of them to his house, where they stayed for hours, talking and watching television. It was a completely platonic get-together. My bus buddy had kept in touch with this woman through texts and instant messenger for the past seven years. She wasn't the reason for his divorce; he had never loved his wife, anyway, and their marriage dissolved on its own. Besides, his conversations with this woman were never of a romantic nature. He never expressed his feelings for her and she never expressed hers for him.
“But I know she feels the same way,” he said, shaking like a junkie as he clutched his backpack.
His plan was to surprise her at the candy store where she worked. He knew her hours. He had practiced his opening line a thousand times (though he refused to disclose it to me.) She was going to leave her shift early, take him back to her apartment, and make passionate love to him. Of this he was certain.
Since we had time to kill, I played the devil's advocate. What if she wasn't at the candy store? I know she will be. She has the same schedule every week. What if she has a doctor's appointment? I'll come back the next day. What if she has a boyfriend? She's single, I know it. Where will you stay if she doesn't invite you back? She will invite me back. What if she doesn't love you? Of course she loves me. How long have you been planning this? I decided to go today, but this isn't the kind of thing that needs a lot of planning in advance.
And on and on and on until he finally turned the game on me and interrogated me about my sweet, boring love life. I played until one or both of us fell asleep.
I never knew what became of his love story, but sometimes I like to imagine the scene in the candy store and then afterwards. I have probably exhausted all possible scenarios in my mind.
On my way back from Pittsburgh, the bus employees threw my suitcase, slamming it onto the pavement. That's when I realized how stupid I had been. I rushed to unzip the suitcase and rifled through the pile of clothes to find my laptop. The screen had cracked. My precious computer, the computer upon which I've written so much, was gone—or so I thought. It turned out that the computer still worked. I turned it on, welcomed by a blue glow that illuminated my face in the black Chinatown lot, and got past the few cracks in the screen. I am writing on that same laptop this very moment.
That stroke of luck reminds me of when a mentor went to Haiti for a spontaneous service trip. She had just graduated from college and knew little about international travel. Yet here she was going to a place that could not be further removed from her upper-middle class, white, Northern Virginian existence. She packed a carry-on and a check-in, but once that princessy checked bag rolled away on the conveyor belt, she never saw it again. She had to live on the contents of that carry-on luggage for an entire summer.
“But the Lord provided,” she said. “I had exactly what I needed. I didn't need anything from the checked bag. It required a sudden change of plans, but I improvised.”
The Lord provided for my laptop and I hope the Lord provided for that Baltimore man and his Chicago love, as the Lord shall provide for many more people in all their impromptu trips.