The schedule for that Thursday morning, it seemed, had worked perfectly. Since my regular meeting was cancelled for the Easter holiday, I was finally able to attend the visiting session at Central Casting. My newly official SAG status needed to be brought to the attention of the Union casting directors who will (hopefully) be booking me. I told myself I would leave at 7:30. I rushed out the door at 7:55. The speedometer verified my lead-foot down the freeway. The Waze app took me around the same block twice. Had I missed the turn the first time? When I turned down Flower Street and passed the office, the line to get in was already too long for comfort. There are only 50 chairs in the room; I might not make it in the door. I cursed myself for being late. Trying again next week meant I would have to cancel some things and if that didn’t work, I would have to wait another month.
Down the street at the bus station parking lot, I found a space and parked. Walking quickly, I zeroed in on the buildings ahead of me; I didn’t want to waste a step by looking around to enjoy the bright blue sky or cool morning air. But just as I came to the edge of the parking lot, I noticed in my periphery a person sitting on the curb. A second glance told me it was a young woman and she was crying. I stopped.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m having anxiety. I’m trying to calm down and catch my breath,” she replied through sniffles.
“Oh. I’m so sorry,” I said.
Put your arms around her, said a small voice in the back of my head.
I’ve learned not to argue with that voice so I sat down on the curb beside her and gave her a side hug and she melted into me. My arms already in place, I proceeded to gently massage her arms, shoulders and back in an attempt to help her relax. It struck me that not only was I in her space, but I was touching her body and, do I dare say, this was a little weird. Not to mention, out of character for me. I wondered about the appropriateness of this encounter and immediately looked for cues from her to tell me what to do next. It was as if she could read my mind.
“Thank you,” she said, placing her left hand on my right knee as if to steady herself.
She closed her eyes and tried to control her breathing as I continued to massage her back through her leather jacket. She exhaled each time I touched a new place beside her spine with my thumb. We sat in silence for the next two or three minutes, her trying to calm down and me offering comfort by just being there with her. I wondered how long the line was getting down at Central but there was no way I was leaving. I decided I would stay as long as she needed me to be with her. I prayed for her to find and feel a sense of calm. The buses came and went. A man walked by, wearing a suit jacket and carrying a file folder in his right hand. The cars flew by on the freeway overpass above our heads. The officer in the police car next to us sat and watched. There was peace on that concrete curb, sitting and being.
Ask her where she’s going, said the voice again.
I looked at her closed eyes, her quivering right hand and her left hand still on my knee, and didn’t feel right about interrupting her thoughts. My arms still moving across her back, I thought maybe I could offer to walk her down the street. Or maybe she needed more time to sit.
“Are you going down the street? I’m going that way, I could walk with you.”
“No. I’m late for work. I called a cab. It’s late getting here. I’m all stressed out. I can’t breathe.” The tears welled in her eyes again and I continued rubbing and squeezing her arms. I didn’t know her story, but I was sure it was about more than being late for work.
“There’s the cab,” she said.
We both stood and faced each other and immediately embraced. It was a long and familiar hug, like we’d known each other our whole lives and didn’t want to say goodbye; another weird sensation considering we were complete strangers. There was something bigger going on here.
“I love you,” I said into her ear. Did I just say that?!
“I love you, too. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. God bless you,” she said clinging to me through tears.
“It’s okay sweetie, you’re not alone. Just one step in front of the other. You’re not alone. I love you,” I said again in her ear.
“I love you, too,” she said and finally let go to wave at the cab driver.
Without looking back or saying a word, I turned and walked down the street to Central Casting. I didn’t see her into the cab and I didn’t wave goodbye; I was half afraid that if I turned around to look she might not be there so I kept moving forward. My aqua blouse fluttered in the breeze with each stride as I contemplated what just happened. Could she have been an Angel encounter?
The line was longer when I arrived. I took a head-count. Lord, if I’m too far back in line to make it inside, it’s ok. She was worth it. If my drive down here was just for that, I’m ok with it. Thank you that I get to serve you and love those that you put in my path even though I am utterly selfish in so many ways. Thank you for trusting me to show her that you love her and see her and that you haven’t forgotten her; that you haven’t forgotten me. Please be with her at work today. Be with her bosses. Give her peace.
The majority of the people in line were in suits and dark clothing. File man was three people ahead of me. Ten minutes later they opened the door and let everyone in. The first 50 seats were filled. The rest of us, twenty or so, stood in the back and listened and asked questions about working in Hollywood.
But that really isn’t the point.
–Tara Schiro, Author, “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live” Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble