Tom and I spent the night in Boston on our way to Cape Cod. Boston is a city I have flown into and promptly driven out of, but not a city I ever explored. So as a late anniversary celebration we used a gift voucher for a free night at the Ritz — that story later — and took in the sites of Boston.
After an afternoon of walking, we cabbed it from the harbor back to the hotel. Tom has been nursing a plantar fasciitis foot and I a sore knee from too much high heel dancing at my step-daughter’s wedding. Also, it was hot and we were sweaty.
Tom immediately asked the cabbie to open the windows. Please.
As we drove thru the crowded, spaghetti-noodled streets of Boston I rested my arm out of the window, my hand on the sill. I was glad to be sitting. We slowed to an intersection preparing to turn left. On the sidewalk, waiting for the lighted person/symbol signaling it is safe to cross, was a group of people. I barely noticed them until a twenty-something-year-old man/child stepped out of the group and extended his hand toward the taxi…and me. At first I thought he wanted to get in.
Something in his movement told me he wasn’t looking for a ride. What he was intending was to “side five” with me. (High five, only sideways.)
I instinctively reached out my hand to him.
Our palms met. Gently. Softly. Quite tenderly.
I have touched strangers before. Usually it is by accident, bumping into them, hitting arms or shoulders resulting in one of us apologizing for our clumsiness. We did not, you see, mean to touch one another. Earlier that morning I tried not to touch a stranger as we bobbed and weaved attempting to get out of each others’ way in the narrow hotel hallway. Our politeness securing our distance.
But this was different. This was intentional. We reached for each other. We meant to touch.
I felt something in this moment of contact with this total stranger. It is still with me.
I felt/feel hope. I felt/feel the simplicity of a moment fully lived. I feel the impact of being reached for by another. I feel the power of reaching back. I feel hope for us as a culture when we can reach out and touch each other for no other reason but to make contact.
I don’t know anything about this guy. Does he live in Boston or like me was he just visiting? Does he like his life? Does he have a girlfriend? Is he studying something that excites him? I will never know the answers to these questions. I will most likely never see him again. I probably would not even recognize him if I literally ran into him.
And, if I did, I would probably excuse my gracelessness.