They can still be one of your favorite passengers, even if you hardly see them more than once or twice a year. The last time I saw Joshelyn was the New Year’s Eve prior to the most recent one. She’d just acquired keys to her new apartment, further north on Rainier, and she was excited. We spoke of reduced commute times, new roommates, and the adventure of transporting possessions by bus.
She was a unique compliment to the riders around her, especially at night in the southlands. Her demure ponytail and sensible attire, chosen with warmth in mind, couldn’t disguise a certain electric vitality, unafraid and insistent on being herself, regardless of the circumstances. Sitting cross-legged on the bench seat. Something powerful in her slight, unassuming frame, radiating from those sharp blue eyes–or maybe sharp green eyes, I can never remember.
We bonded over books. How refreshing, this lettered, erudite young mind steeped in books not just from school, more than able to hold her own against her busmates, unsuspecting older men trying to tell her the state of things. Some among the younger set try to hide their intellectual acumen, not realizing there’s a way to be smart and stylish at the same time. I wonder if they ask themselves, who exactly am I trying to impress, in my effort to limit my own perspectives, and to what degree is it worth it?
Joshelyn’s likely in her post-collegiate years, but she has the relaxed confidence of someone either older or much younger. Her voice doesn’t need to broadcast her affinities, feels no pressure to proclaim her quality. I’m impressed by people like that.
Tonight, one year later, our conversation isn’t about books or moving furniture. She’s telling me about her new squeeze, and it’s next-level stuff. They’ve eloped. “Serious” is the wrong term, although that would be true; potent is better. Spirited. She’s been in long relationships before–very long ones–and she knows what heartache is. So when she, with her battle-scarred heart, tells of how excited she is about this new fellow, I pay attention. It’s an unusual mixture; she’s Juliet on the balcony, walking on air, but she’s been through so much more. I expect this ebullience from teenagers. How does she do it, friend? Listen to that voice, those sparkling eyes.
The fact that she possesses the very same is a causer de joie, proof that we can rebuild without putting up walls, that we can still find it in ourselves to be vulnerable, that hardest and most worthwhile thing. Brené Brown, PhD: “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
Joshelyn asked me, “have you ever been in love?”
She put the question with genuine excitement. She asked because she knew it was the most beautiful mode of existence, and that it was exceedingly rare. She asked because she knew it lived in fiction more frequently than in life. That being in a relationship was no kind of guarantee, and sometimes the loneliest place of all. She asked because she knew it sometimes never happens, but if it did, you cherished it, no matter how awkward or strange or new. She asked because she trusted I was smart enough to know these things. Her voice carried the wisdom that was nimble enough to be foolish, brave enough to be open.
I thought for a long time before answering.