A true story.

I don’t write many coherent and concise anecdotes, but this one is too good and too brief not to share.

In 2011-2012, I was living in Manhattan. I was having a meal of french fries and coffee (or just coffee that night) at an all night diner on 8th Ave and 34th St, the Tick Tock Diner, adjacent the New Yorker hotel. It is one of my favorite diners, for aesthetic reasons and plain alike. The diner was nearly empty- it was, late at night, probably no later than 2AM, but possibly as late as 3AM. There were, however a couple vibrant groups and a couple loners like me. I was sitting across an aisle and a couple booths away from a young, tall, chubby Arab or Indian (I’ll just say Arab for this) man no older than 30 eating a meal alone. Behind me were a group of possibly drunk (but not slurred nor heavily intoxicated) and boisterous black men- let’s call them a quartet or quintet of a capella singers.  They did not sing anything, nor do I know if they were singers, but they were classy, and trendy, and in a lot better mood than me or this Arab loner.  The Arab, had a very nice cardigan-like sweater on, and was well dressed (I don’t remember if it were corduroy or denim pants).

We were all sitting there for maybe 15-20 minutes, each at our separate booths, before the one of the black men (who were all in such great cheerful spirits making banter at their table), stood up from his table, and, without walking far from his table, faced the Arab, who compared to to me, was feeling very, very depressed. Without asking the Arab why he was sad, he erupted into a diatribe, saying things like, “f*%# that B*%#! Look man, I don’t know who did this do you but I don’t want to see you like this- I want you to see you smile (using both his hands to to point to his own wide smile) and (then quickly looking at me for concurrence) you know what I’m talking about right? (and both the Arab and me grinning and nodding instantly in understanding).” He went on talking for over three or five minutes about how “whatever she or he did to hurt you, “f*%# that B*%#@” and everytime he said it, it made him smile. It was such a miracle that he did this, because many people don’t always care and I can’t imagine him being worse off for being scolded in such a intensely engaging way. It was instant, happy feeling of being addressed and understood by a complete stranger who had an excellent understanding of the vibe in a room and with the drive to fix it. His friends were laughing at the whole thing but even they appeared taken aback and tried to hold him back as if they knew his speech came from a history of  passionate viscerality.

The Arab was not obviously not annoyed by this diatribe; he gladly welcomed it without saying a word. The black man even went to equally weigh the Arab’s sexual orientation by saying “I don’t know whether it was a guy or girl that hurt you, but the important thing is that you move on” (or something along those lines) which garnered additional smirks from both of the Arab and me. This was all at the expense of the anger and emphatic gusto the black was right in expressing, because while it was funny to us, he put so much effort into resuscitating this depressed spirit who was eating alone that it became soon clear how far behind one can fall (in one’s thoughts, and in life) when heartbroken, which he clearly was. Lost love is clearly something I could recognize, and that night, all I had to do was sit there and offer effortless gestures of sympathy and approval.

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