Leah Francis : Finding the Way contents

Back to Work

STRANGER

It was eight o'clock when I unlocked my office that morning. Now, at almost seven at night, I was weary. Students' results were due tomorrow morning, and mine were not complete.

I had required each assignment to be presented on disk, and was using speech to read the screen, keying in marks and remarks as I "read"." Marking assignments is always tedious and tiring, but it is slower and more demanding when you are not able to scan the screen.

Time to leave my cosy office and fight the weather. Had I left earlier I could have asked someone to drive me as far as the railway station.

The heavy front door slammed, forcing me into the whirling wind and the icy, stinging rain. I almost lost my bearings.

The railway station was close but my progress was slow. Ignoring that wise advice not to take unnecessary risks, I splashed and slithered along the footpaths, the roar of the wind almost louder than the peak-hour traffic on the highway beside me.

I reached the traffic lights. Was it safe to cross at this intersection alone in these conditions? Was the traffic flowing beside or in front of me?

Beside me, I was sure.

Almost sure.

I crossed safely.

Along the side street, down the railway steps and up to the platform I trudged.

Cautiously, I found the edge of the platform with my cane and verified that the train was beside it.

"Stand clear! Doors closing," warned the guard.

Slithering perilously beside the train I found a door with my cane and stepped in, hanging on to a bar to regain my balance.

A firm hand guided me to a seat. I submitted, too numb from the cold, too tense from fear of falling under the train to acknowledge the help.

In the comparative warmth I relaxed, paying no attention to the bridges, points and tunnels which were clues to my whereabouts.

With a start I asked the man sitting opposite which station we were approaching. My station. As I moved to leave the train he held my arm again. I realized it was he who had found me the seat.

We stepped off the train together and he offered to walk to the exit with me. I was thankful. We were walking in the same direction and I appreciated his help.

He told me where he worked and what he did. "I rent a room not far from here," he said. "On fine nights, after I have something to eat I go for a walk then read my Bible." He had no radio or television. His needs were few, he said. He earned enough to cover simple living expenses and was content.

We approached my corner and I was tempted to ask him home for coffee. Caution prevailed. Good-night, I said, and thanks for your help. We did not shake hands but he told me his name and said, "if ever you need me, just think of my name and I'll be there."

This happened more than ten years ago. I have not needed him, but not once have I been able to recall his name.

Was he an angel whom I had "entertained unawares?"

comments: beginning doesn't quite fit.

We can see the world but you can't, and we can't see your world. Difficult to offer help.

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