There is an opera singer who lives on the floor where I reside in DTLA. I always stop outside her door to listen to her amazing voice, which makes the entire building writhe in audio ecstasy. If the building had toes, it’s toes would be curled back over 180 degrees. Sometimes I just sit on the floor across from her door to hear her angelic voice. Her range seems to exceed Yma Sumac’s. It’s a mighty and powerful voice that could move mountains. One day her door was slightly ajar, and I stopped anyway listen to her. She looked at me , smiled and invited me in. So I went into her apartment. She offered to share her mint tea over loaded with lemon and honey with me . I just sat in this old wooden chair with a red velvet cushion , closed my eyes and listened as she sang. Her voice made my wilted spirit soar. Before I left I asked her if I could come again. ” Anytime”, she smiled, as she placed her elegant left hand on my right shoulder. ” Do you mind if I bring my lap top? ” ” Whatever you like.. Just knock four times. I don’t like odd numbered knocks on my door it’s bad luck.” she said laughingly. So a few days later, I knocked on her door four times. She let me in and offered me the chair and a cup of tea. As she sang I opened my lap top, which was in the repair shop for two weeks, and began to rewrite my screen play. Her voice inspires me It lifts me because she sings from her heart, and from the inner guts of her emotional chambers. . While I wrote she would often turn around and wink at me, as if to encourage me to retain my manic level of productivity, I went back again the other day, and offered here a new box of tea, a jar of locally made honey, and two fresh organic lemons. She hugged me, told me to sit down. Poured me some tea and began to sing, and I began to write.
Strangers on a Train II. A series of essays about chance encounters with passengers during my last four train journeys
While on a recent train trip , I found myself eating a mediocre tasting dinner at a table for four. The train was so crowded, that we were forced to sit down with strangers. At my table was Abel, a seventeen year old high school student who dreamt of doing special FX for Marvel Comics films, Dean, who had a bad phobia for flying and was taking the train from Kansas City all the way to Seattle to visit his sister, me, and Allie, this kind faced Hispanic woman in her mid sixties. I noticed her earlier because she occupied two seats and had both over lead lights on. Additionally she had her i phone flash light on her lap, and even an miniature angel night light plugged into the power outlet. We all stared at her when she pulled out a zip lock bag containing eating utensils made of bamboo. “Bamboo is the strongest wood in the world.” she taught us . ” Even termites can’t eat bamboo” . We all nodded in respectful agreement. Than she set her utensils down and directed a funny question at us. ” I would like it if each of you could tell me something extraordinary about yourselves” she asked with the voice of a golden throated angel. Abel told us about how he almost died crossing the border with his parents. Dean told me that he almost suffocated after hiding in a pull out couch bed while playing hide and go seek when he was eight, I told everyone the story about a bolt of lightening striking within five feet of me, but Allie, She topped us all. After the death of her first husband, he died battling lung cancer. She became very lonely and depressed. She met a younger man who just moved into town. This young man charmed her and made her smile for the first time in five years. Soon the man moved in, and they were very happy together , and even married. Flash forward to six months later and Allie’s mother died, and left Allie with a very substantial sum of money, easily exceeding 2 million dollars. Her new husband began acting differently, as if he shed his fake skin and became mean, cold, sinister and even abusive. One night while Allie was cleaning the dishes, he struck Allie on the head with a monkey wrench. She was knocked to the ground. It appeared that she was unconcious, but she wasn’t. She was playing possum. The greedy husband wrapped Allies body in blankets , sheets, and bed spreads. He cleaned up the blood on the kitchen counter and floor, all the while Allie was pretending to be dead. Than the guy gets on the phone and calls his mother, to ask for her guidance.” I don’t have any rope or duct tape”, he explained to her with the calm of a gentle sea. ” I think I saw some in the garage.” So the husband leaves Allie and goes to the garage. The garage was detached from the house. It was over 200 yards away from the main house. While he was in the garage looking for rope and/ or duct tape, Allie escaped from her cocoon and called 911. ” Help. my husband is trying to kill me. Please come now.” She quickly gave the dispatcher her address, repeated is slowly and clearly, than went back and rewrapped herself back in the blankets and bed spreads. But before she did that she quickly hid the industrial strength monkey wrench, because she knew that he if felt a pulse, he would strike her again with a deathly blow. The husband returns and starts tying up poor Allie with bright yellow rope, as just as he tied the final knot, four Police Men raided the house! The guy was thrown to the floor and immediately arrested. He is serving a life sentence, as as we passed the city of Salinas, Allie pointed out the window and said . ” There, there is where my second e xhusband lives and there is where he will die.” ” What about his mother?| asked Dean. ” She’s in another facility down south. You know it’s true what they say you reap what you sew and you get what you give.” The three of us just stared at her at disbelief. ” That can’t be a true story” claimed Abel. ” It most certainly is ” replied Allie. “You think you’ll ever marry again?” asked Dean.” Perhaps” replied Allie. ” But he has to be a genuine gentleman, and he has to like cats too. I have six”. When the bill came to the table Allie grabbed it . We all protested as we fumbled with our clumps of cash.” She laughed ” You can pay next time, when you all have proper money clips.” She said laughingly. ” I appreciate you all being present with me during dinner. You see, every time I tell the story , the less scared of the dark I become.” An hour later I walked by Allie. This time only one of her overhead lights were on, and her iPhone flash light was off. A gentle smile crawled across her face, like a sluggish catterpillar as she began to doze off.
About ten years ago I had the opportunity to meet the exquisitely beautiful super model Iman, We met at an upscale cafe in Miami after I shot a Telemundo Commercial. When I introduced myself to her she shook my hand with elegant grace coupled with intense dignity and said ” Nice to meet you Hawaiian Boy.” Her voice was deeper than I anticipated, akin to Grace Jones, but with more timbre. I was fixated with the beauty of the color of her skin. A rich, beautiful mahogany with a hint of mocha. Flawless skin, made me phobic to touch her flesh. I had several more chance encounters with her in NY and LA since that day, and she still calls me Hawaiian Boy. The last time I saw her she quickly shot her perfect hand into her hand bag and handed me a bag of dried pineapple. “Mahalo” I said . She winked, smiled, and walked away as if she were on the cat walk. It wasn’t just her physicality that was captivating, it was her spirit….very alluring..and even other worldly. Next time I see her I’ll make sure to say ALOHA.
While taking the train to visit my family for the holidays I met a very sweet lady. She was short , rotund with hair whiter than snow. Her cheeks were pinks were cherry blossom pink. And her face , sweet as cherry pie. The light reflecting off her bright white hair glowed creating the illusion that there was a halo around her head. She sat across from me in the dining room me during lunch. We bit into our stale rubbery hamburgers in silence, while watching cows grazing the bright green rolling hills of Salinas. “This is the worst hamburger I ‘ve ever had”, I said, ” Almost as bad as my mother in law’s cooking” she replied. “I’m Sandra|” she said as she extended her hand. I grabbed her hand which was full of gentle warmth. This was a warm hearted woman, no doubt. “I’m Alex.” I replied. Than the point of ignition of our encounter. I posed the question, the type of question people usually brush off or dismiss. “Tell me something about you?” I asked her. Her eyes became glossy. She set down her fork and knife and told me this story that I will never forget . Sandra married her high school sweetheart. They were happily married, and had two adorable daughters Amy and Vivian. They had above average IQS, very well behaved, and excelled in sports and the arts. They were big time over achievers and both in college. Seven years later she had a son , Samuel who Sandra , as hard as she tried, could not bond.. He was defiant, detached, rebellious, and reckless. Sandra did not know how to handler her son, so she instructed her two older daughters and her husband to manage him. For 12 years, she kept her distance from Samuel, they barely conversed, and he was so embittered by their relationship that he would not eat any food his mother cooked. The hostility and rejection Sandra had towards her son was repressed. She retained a cold distance from him. She was so determined to never have children again that she ordered her husband to have a vasectomy. For extra measure , she had a tubal ligation But one day, at the age of thirteen her son Sam, died. He was hit by a school bus. Many eye witnesses claimed that Samuel ran in front of the bus, and that it was suicide. Sandra had a break down. So bad, she refused to leave her house for weeks, Several weeks went by when she went in to have her surgical procedure reversed. When she asked her husband to have his vasectomy reversed , he put on his oversized fleece lined denim jacket and bolted out the door. He went to the park where he and his son would often play football , and shot himself. Sandra was devastated. Her daughters did everything they could to lift their mother from the nadir of despair. But they could do nothing to relieve her from her guilt , pain, or despair. Every night Sandra would go to church and pray, not just pray , but plead with God for another chance to mother a son. She became weak and sickened by her guilt. She refused to eat, and was eventually hospitalized. One day her new nurse Nestor arrived, and he noticed the thirty plus photos of Samuel around her hospital bed. He was extra gentle in his care for Sandra. He instantly recognized that this was a woman in severe pain. Nestor would even come in on his his day off to push Sandra in the wheel chair to the chapel where she continued to pray every single day and night , asking God for just one more chance to have a son. When Sandra was released from the hospital , Nestor continued to visit her and they began dating. A year later they married. And guess what, she became pregnant, and had a baby boy. Her son Nestor, Junior was born on the two year anniversary of Samuel’s death. “Next stop San Jose” shouted the train conductor. I just stared into Sandra’s eyes. What I saw in her eyes was happiness, but also a narrow dark streak of pain mixed with guilt, than suddenly her eyes filled with strength and resolve . ” I need to pull myself together” Thank you for listening to my story. ” she said humbly as she handed me a mini box of Sees candy. When I got off the train, I saw Sandra. Her son Nestor picked her up off the ground as if she was lighter in weight than a feather. He spun her around as if there was no tomorrow. Their joyful laughter pierced the cold air, and everyone stared at them with huge smiles. They were a vortex of perfect happiness. Nestor finally released Sandra and gently placed her onto the cold pavement. Sandra noticed my stare. She winked at me and said ” Merry Christmas, and love your family, not just on Christmas.but every day.” I nodded my head flashed her a smile and headed off to baggage claim. While waiting for my baggage, I texted my mom . “Mom, I”m home for Christmas”.