(Max Reif has written a poem called, “To A Visionary Whose Name I’ll Never Know.” His poem is a remembrance of an unknown woman, perhaps an angel, who smiled at him when he was feeling alone in New York City. His story prompted me to write this one).
During the years I lived in Staten Island, New York, I often traveled into Manhattan to visit my poet friend, David or to go to a play or to the library or a museum.
One day, I was lucky to find a seat, close to the front of the bus during a very busy afternoon in downtown Manhattan. As usual, I felt a profound sense of loneliness and alienation. I was from a small town, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, and I was used to being greeted by people I knew in the town. Here, no one smiled or looked at one another. I decided to break the mold.
Here was my chance to be different, to be unique, to express myself. Yet everyone looked so distant, so unfriendly. I retreated into my fantasy lover, in my imagination.
In the midst of such a mixture of reflections, a man entered the bus, stood on the aisle briefly and then soon found an available corner of a crowded seat, facing diagonally across from me.
He had a very large and bulky looking black artist’s portfolio. I don’t recall too much about him except that he had very dark hair and was perhaps also all dressed in black. He had to hold the large portfolio close to him, so that others could board the bus.
I felt sympathy for the man, because he looked so alone. I imagined he had been rejected for an art sale, or perhaps from a job as an artist. I smiled at the man. He seemed to ignore me.
I felt somewhat lost myself, yet thought again of a friend and my upcoming museum visit. Some minutes went by. From time to time, I would glance at the unhappy looking artist, smiling at him and hoping he would find a better chance in life and in art. I gave up the hope, the attachment that he might smile back at me.
Lost in thought, I was amazed when the dejected looking artist, just before I was to exit the bus, stretched out his hand, looked at me with gratitude, and simply said, in a kind way, “Thank you… thank you for your smile, for your kindness.”