At the moment I am aboard a Greyhound heading into Las Vegas. Before you ask, perhaps from time to time, out of special circumstances, there will be the occasional ‘live’ blog update. Do not think of the delay in covering certain locations as the by product of
procrastination tireless effort to satisfy your needs – try to see these updates as ‘flash forward’ moments in the course of my present journey.
I left Irvine, California, today after an extended week long stay with my beloved cousin, doing some much needed R&R, shipping back excess luggage, getting a haircut and new prescribed glasses (wear and tear down the road has left the original in poor condition). Occasionally during these long train rides, sitting beside random strangers, I am sometimes drawn into conversation with them; inevitably, questions regarding from origins and the purpose my travels arise, and much of the response from my answers range anywhere from shock to bewilderment, unbelieving to immense interest on the subject.
This afternoon I was joined by a woman heading down to Los Angeles, where I was to board the Greyhound, and it struck me that she was a religious and devout woman; there was the air of wealth to her, but likewise a personality that was similar to the upper class. When she asked me where I was from, at first she did not believe my story, about the length of my travels. “How on earth are you covering your expenses?” she asked, surprised. By being very frugal with my spending, couch surfing, rooting out discounts for activities; most of the time, I added, the benevolence of others, charity and support.
“Where are you traveling to?” she asked me. New York was my reply. “You’re traveling to New York? How? Flying?” I pointed a finger around the train. By foot and by bus, I said. “But why are you going to New York?” I heard an old legend, not sure if its true or not, about old immigrants paying tribute off the Statue of Liberty. Figures that I ought to see the world while I make the attempt because my friends and family, past and present, deserve it. I revealed that I identified with the alternative and that I flew a flag carrying that symbol from that culture everywhere I went, that in San Francisco, a leather dyke nicknamed me as ‘the Flag Bearer’.
Her hand pressed against her breast, like as if though her heart may drop. “Are you a Christian?” she asked me. I shook my head and replied, I don’t believe in a God where others should suffer without cause, that good and just individuals are exploited, and good men die that others may corrupt. What faith I have, I added, stems from other people that deserve respect.
Before I could say anything more, her hands moved to her eyes and I caught a glimpse of her starting to cry, and when I tried to comfort her, she shook her head. “Don’t worry about my tears,” she said. “These are tears of joy that the Lord has brought me here to meet you.” The honor is mine, I said. “No, thank you.” For what? “For this blessing, God bless you.”
Suddenly she reached into her purse and drew out a $20 bill. She clutched it between her hands and bowed her head in prayer, whispering rapidly, and I caught the occasional phrases such as ‘protect his faith’, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God’, ‘Jesus Christ protect his way’, ‘deliver him from evil harm’. After she was done, the lady took my hand and thrust the bill into it. “Take this,” she said. “I heard the Lord tell me to do it. This is my gift to you.”
I immediately tried to hand it back. I can’t take this, I protested, I have enough money to last my journey. Give it to someone else in need. She snapped a frown at me, saying, “Do not ignore the blessing of this gift. It was His will and mine, take it and make use of it.” What am I going to with it? I asked. Spend it on cigarettes? She smiled, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Whatever you decide.”
You realize I’m going to say your name as well from the top of the Statue of Liberty, right? She laughed, “Thank you, thank you. Bless your heart. You have no idea how much that means to me.” What do you mean? “I am diagnosed with breast cancer. I rejected chemo and removing my breast because I believe in the Lord’s work.” I looked at her in horror. “It means so much to me if you did that.”
But why on earth won’t you take chemo? “It is His will what happens to us. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my church laughed at me and said that it was because I had done wrong and had this happen to me.” She replied. I felt her hand rest over mine, perhaps noticing the clenched fist.
I’m not going to forget this, I said to her, thank you with every fiber of my being. She continued to smile, removing her sunglasses to look at me. This money will be spent on those that deserve it, I added, twenty people will be fed as best as I can afford. “You know,” she said, laughing again, “That might win us both favors above.”
“You’re going to make it.” She said as we drew close to the station. “I’m writing a book and plan to host a talk show so if you ever call in, just refer to this.” Will you recognize me if I identified myself as the Flag Bearer? She inclined her head. “Absolutely. You should write a book about it, make some money, but remember to save some for yourself. ” I nodded my head, adding, that what profit I’d make would first be used to cover the expenses of my trip, then the rest donated frequently to the communities I’d already come across. “You’ll need the money some day.” she suggested. Maybe I’ll save enough for a second adventure, back to places I did not cover this time around.
You realize in all likelihood that we’re never going to meet again, yes? She looked back at me as we exited. “I knew that from the start but maybe some day I’ll see you again.” If I miraculously make it upstairs, save me a place, ma’am. “You’ll have a place there.” I stopped for a moment, then added, but if none of these people I meet join me, I’d rather burn with them, in the hopes to lift their pain away.
She leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek, giggling as I checked for lipstick. “That’s mighty brave of you,” the lady said, loading her bags onto a service cart, hopping aboard. “I will pray for your journey.” I will say your name when I arrive.
The blessing that she bestowed to me had a simple message: My fortune was not to be overlooked, that across the cities I traveled there will be those that are in need; her gift is not to be ill-spent, but let this be a simple promise, that I will try to feed as many people as this sum of money can afford.
The service cart sped away, leaving me watching behind, and just like that she was already gone.
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