BEST FRIENDS FOR AN AFTERNOON – Marilyn Armstrong

It has nothing to do with hooking up or any other kind of sex. It has to do with becoming the closest of friends with a complete stranger for one afternoon, then never seeing him or her again.

One year, about 30 years ago, I was visiting friends in Montreal. I was poor, didn’t have a reliable car, so I took the bus from New York to Montreal. It was a five-hour ride. I figured I’d sleep most of it, but instead, I found myself seated next to an Indian (from India) medical student who was studying medicine at McGill University. He had just been visiting friends in New York and it was time to go back to studying.

He explained that he was on a scholarship from India and the deal was, he would study, become a doctor, then go back to India and do three years of work there to compensate the government. But, he said, he wasn’t going back.

I was surprised. “But you took the money,” I pointed out. “Don’t you feel you owe them something?” He sighed.

“India is so big,” he said. “So poor. There is very little I could do there that would mean anything. But I could do some great work here in Canada. Research work that might save many people and not just for three years. Maybe for a hundred years.”

He then talked about India’s relationship with Great Britain. “Mostly, everyone hates the British, but they gave us one thing for which we will always be grateful.”

I raised both eyebrows (I can’t raise just one, sorry) and looked at him.

“English,” he said. “Before the British, we spoke hundreds of languages. In each valley, the villages had their own language. Across the nation, we couldn’t talk to each other. Then along came the English and suddenly, we could communicate. For that, we are grateful. It may not be our best language, but it the one everyone speaks.”

After that — getting a look at India I had never seen before — I passed along all of my current issues including trying to get a Jewish divorce in Israel while living in New York, a process so complicated that even 32 years later, I get a headache thinking about it. Not to mention the nasty piece of work who,  for hard-to-fathom reasons, I had married. And children. Mine. His. Ours. As well as the big ocean between us.

Greyhound bus terminal

The two of us never even exchanged names. When we parted at the bus station in Montreal, we had no thought of ever meeting again.

We were best friends for one afternoon on a long bus ride between cities. And three decades later, I still remember it.



Categories: Anecdote, Friendship, language, Marilyn Armstrong, Transportation, Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. Those were the days when you actually spoke to someone sitting next to you. Today, he’d have ear buds in to tell you he wasn’t interested in talking and he’d either close his eyes or scroll his phone. I like your memory better.

    Like

  2. Great post!
    I love spending time with my friends. Very relaxing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful tale. As someone who travels much, mostly on trains, I made several unforgettable ‘part time, short term’, friends. The latest was with a woman who boarded the same bus in Zurich and then we went to change for the same tramway. We re-made the world of faith, religion, God and Humans, all in less than one hour. We came from the same concert in an Senior Residents’ Home and we both wished to see each other again – but of course won’t.
    My most memorable friendship was when a gentleman and I both had reserved the same 1st class seat in a practically empty TGV (high speed) train from Paris to Zurich. He was a philosopher and not only did we start chatting because he sat on ‘my’ place but because he had this really serious looking book open. And so it started…. He told me much about his life, his talks he was giving, and whatnot. For a philosopher he was very happy to communicate.
    When tickets were checked, he (stupidly, he realised, afterwards) told the man that the SNCF (French railway co) shouldn’t sell the same place twice…. both our tickets were checked again and his return ticket was for the same day but a month later (February). He had to pay another €100 extra…. We DID stay in contact this time, and corresponded a couple of times across a few years. I’ll never forget that extraordinary day and our talk.

    Like

  4. I sometimes take a day-long train ride into Texas Hill Country to visit my daughter. Listening in without really meaning to, I’ve heard how personal the conversations often get on these trips! People seem to reveal more when they know it’s just for the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am hopeful that he made it, became a doctor, and wherever he decided to live, was able to make the difference he so hoped for. Life’s like that though, isn’t it? Sometimes someone can become a friend for a day and leave an impact.

    Like

  6. Lovely story, Marilyn. Maybe he’ll turn out to be one of your readers and will contact you.

    When I lived in DC, I used to take a bus home to Buffalo occasionally. I remember one trip when I had a very nice young man sitting next to me, and by the time we reached Buffalo, we were practically in love. The only problem was that we had been sitting during the entire trip and didn’t realize that I am short and he was very tall. When we stood up to leave the bus, I barely came up to his belly button. Well, that wasn’t gonna work! We both laughed and went on our ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful memory! And what a great friendship, forged without expectations and brief though it was, lasting too.

    Like

  8. I’ve had a couple of encounters like that and they are memorable, the kindness of strangers.
    Leslie

    Like

  9. This sort of friendship is almost as good as therapy!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I hope he got off in Montreal. That’s where McGill is!!!

    Like

  11. the great impressionists, life can be a cloud, and days can be like gold, hope your birdy restaurant is buzzing with newbee’s

    Like

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Story Board

News Stories

Covert Novelist

Just another WordPress site

The Small Dog

Life from the Tail End

Cee's Chronic Illness Sisterhood

Peer support and hope for women with Chronic Illness and their support team.

Salted Caramel

Blogging, Motivation, Lifestyle and much more.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Echoes of Life, Love and Laughter

Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.

Green Screen

The Environmental Movie Podcast

Crittering

Crittering (noun) - the observation of critters in their natural habitat.

Works by Martha Kennedy

Historical Fiction, Memoir and Paintings

bushboys world

Photos of my world and other stuff I hope you will enjoy too. Photos taken with Canon PowershotSX70HS Photos can be purchased.

musingsofanoldfart

Independent views from someone who offers some historical context

SeanMunger.com

Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger

The HOBBLEDEHOY

I use the best, I use the rest

This, That, and The Other

Random musings on life, society, and politics.

My Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

Martha Ann Kennedy's Blog, Copyright 2013-2020, all rights reserved to the author/artist

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Trent's World (the Blog)

Random Ramblings and Reviews from Trent P. McDonald

Views from the Edge

To See More Clearly

serial monography: forgottenman's ruminations

wandering discourse, pedantic rant, self-indulgent drivel, languorous polemic, grammarian's bête noire, poesy encroachment approaching bombast, unintended subtext in otherwise intentional context, unorthodox unorthodoxy, self-inflected rodomontade, …

draliman on life

Because sometimes life just makes you stop and think

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns

sparksfromacombustiblemind

EMBERS FROM SOMEONE DOGGEDLY TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL...

The Day After

Musings, Photography, Writing, and More

THE SHINBONE STAR

NO LONGER ENCUMBERED BY ANY SENSE OF FAIR PLAY, EX-JOURNALISTS RETURN TO ACTIVE DUTY TO FIGHT THE TRUMPIAN MENACE!

Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

Welcome to the Anglo Swiss World

ScienceSwitch

The Fun Side Of Science

%d bloggers like this: