Forever Strangers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is about a young girl on a train who tries to help a perfect stranger through her struggles and along the way learns a valuable lesson.

Submitted: June 11, 2017

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Submitted: June 11, 2017

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The train moves furiously along the tracks, despite the fact that everyone aboard hardly moves. Trains are interesting, each cabin holds 60 people, and these people could be coming from anywhere and no one ever seems to know each other. In the center of both rows, four strangers are forced to face each other in a dinner table-like setting. I am currently in that situation and I usual avoid eye-contact, but today I’m feeling a bit more adventurous. I begin to look around and in the other dinner table-like seating area there are two men that sit adjacent from each other with anger among their faces. I stop and wonder whether or not they know each other or if they just happened to have a brief moment of hostility before boarding. The energy between them is cold, but it could just be that they are ‘manly men’ and of course ‘manly men’ don't smile. One of them is mysterious, the tall dark and handsome type of guy, but he seems unsure of himself, nervous almost, so I don't bother sparking up a conversation.
A beautiful brunette woman walks past me,in more of a hurry than the train and as the doors beep in hopes of warning those around it to move, she drops everything in her hands. She let out a loud sigh and attempted to pick up her belongings fast enough so that she wouldn’t make a scene. As the train started to pull away, she was jerked back and dropped everything again. She looked at me and then at the two men near me. “Are you just going to sit there and watch or are you going to help?” she impolitely bantered. They looked at me with confusion and then back at each other. Seeing that no one was planning on moving to help the poor woman, I got up and started picking up her things; a perfect opportunity to talk to someone new. There were just a bunch of papers and folders and a book that read The Way To Live; as if all the answers to the world were easily constructed and written into a three-hundred or so page book. Wouldn't that be nice. I handed her the pile of papers, and while doing so, one of them caught my eye. DNA test results.
Being that the seats were limited and the one next to mine was just occupied by my bag, I offered it to her. We talked about service level topics until I gained the courage to ask her about the paper I saw. She was quite shocked by my remark and took a minute to regain her thoughts before responding. For the first time, I heard a tremble in her voice as she spoke “My whole life I have always wondered who my father was; what he did for a living, if he had another family, what he looked like or if he even cared to know my existence. I decided that if I never found out who he was, I would always feel the constant void of not knowing half of my identity.” The words poured out of her like a fountain that had been plugged for years and was finally able to release. I could see the pain in her eyes as a tear began to formulate, she was strong but this was something that had tormented her for her entire life.
She continued by telling me about her upbringing. “My whole life I have dealt with the absence of my father. And it’s not like growing up without a dog because not everyone gets one of those and they are far less important than a parent. But the best way I can describe it, is if you went to the store and picked a banana: beautifully yellow and ripe with nutrients. You would then peel the banana back, expecting a delicious piece of fruit to be inside…but instead its all brown and rotten. Of course you don't eat it because it might make you sick, you could try to eat around the gross parts but that wouldn’t fill you up, so instead you throw it away. That banana is my father. I expected him to be there, alive and present, to raise and nurture me, but he wasn’t. His absence has created rotten spots throughout my life and I try my best everyday to eat around them but I never feel full. And when I think about my father, it makes me sick. So I find myself constantly throwing him away; when I went to the daddy daughter dance with my mom, when I got my heart broken for the first time, when I had my grandfather walk me down the aisle. I can’t escape it and so today I am trying to find him. Despite my mothers many attempts to try and change my mind, I am going to find my father and I’m going to ask him why the hell he was never there for me.” I didn't know how to respond, how could I possibly think of the right words to say to make it feel any better, to try and consul her. I can't relate to her, I don't know what that’s like to not have a father but I tried my best to be sincere. “I couldn’t even imagine your pain and I’m glad you decided to find him,” I said timidly “when are you planning on meeting him?”. She smirked a bit and said, “I’m on my way to meet him right now and I’m freaking out just a little. What am I supposed to say to him, I’ve imaged this moment my entire life but I still feel so unprepared.”
As she was speaking, I could feel someone looking at me and ease dropping. I peaked to my right, the direction of the two men from earlier, and one of them was starring at me. As I caught his gaze, he quickly turned his head to look out the window. I thought it was peculiar but I ignored the situation and continued to try to speak words of encouragement to this complete stranger. “I think you can address it one of two ways, try to make the conversation light and ask what he does for a living and what he likes to do for fun or get straight to the point and ask why he was never there.” The train came to a screeching halt and the mysterious, handsome man jumped to his feet and stood over me like a tower. Confused by his sudden movement, everyone had shifted their attention his way. He had a tear rolling down his cheek, his eyes looked right at my new found friend and down at the piece of paper labelled DNA test results. He grabbed the paper and shouted “I didn't know you existed” and everyone on the train froze, I could feel my heart pounding and I wanted to look back at her but I couldn't bring myself to move. “Your mother told me that she had a miscarriage and that she never wanted to speak to me again”, he continued. My jaw dropped to the floor and I found myself using my hand to close it. The silence and tension was overbearing and I was physically stuck in the middle of it. I felt it was more appropriate in this moment, so I turned to look at her and she was more stunned than I was. Here was this moment she had fantasized about her whole life, here was this defining moment that would forever impact her and she couldn't speak. He was sitting inches from us as we spoke about him and his absence in her life and he heard everything. He decided to break the silence and this time he was soft as he spoke, “I’m so sorry that I wasn't there for you…to hear your first words, teach you how to ride a bike, give you money in exchange for your teeth, take you to every daddy-daughter dance, help you through your first heartbreak, and walk you down the isle… I’m so sorry that those moments were taken from you, but they were taken from me too. If I had known you were alive, I would have been there for you every step of the way. I’m so sorry, I hope you can forgive me, get to know me and let me be your dad.” A tear ran down my cheek as I felt every word that he professed to his daughter. She jumped up and gave him the biggest hug. “I forgive you dad…I forgive you”. The train was filled with cheers and laughter, for everyone had just witnessed a beautiful moment. The train began to move again.
I switched seats with her father so they could catch up on their many lost years and over-hearing them talk made my heart happy. Just before they got off the train, she came up to me and gave me a hug. “Thank you” she said, “thank you for talking to me, and thank you for helping me find my father.” I was confused as to why she was so grateful so I asked, “Why are you thanking me, I did nothing.” and her response shocked me. “No you did everything… I was going to back out because I didn't feel worthy enough to know who he was, I didn't have the strength or the courage to talk to him and ask him all of the questions I so desperately needed answers to. But you, you helped me pick up my things, you talked to me, you tried your best to give me advice and he heard. Without you I probably would have gotten off the train and taken one straight back home without knowing that the entire time I was on the same train as my father. I would have gone my whole life feeling half full. So that is why I am eternally grateful for you.” She came in to hug me again and I held her tighter and whispered, “don't mention it”. The doors to the train started beeping and she ran through them just before they closed, ending a chapter of uncertainty in her life and beginning a life of adventure in mine.
Life is like a train. You can go through it not making connections, not jumping out of your comfort zone, ignoring all instincts to live how you truly want and giving into the fear of the unknown. Life, like the train"will just keep moving. It doesn't care if you missed your stop, bought the wrong ticket, dropped everything before sitting down, or don't like the person sitting next to you, it just moves. Life, like the train slows down, stops completely or gets a little rocky in between but with the right mind set, all of these moments can be beautiful. You can meet people you never imagined having a connection with, you could fall in love, you could go somewhere new and find that it’s your favorite place to be. All of these things can happen in life and on a train, you just have to be willing to buy a ticket.
I will probably never see that girl again… I never even got her name, but the impact that I had on her life will never be forgotten. And I didn't realize it at first but she impacted my life just as much. That is a crazy feeling… she is a stranger and yet we will never forget each other. 


© Copyright 2017 Alexis Roberts. All rights reserved.

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