Remain Open / by Kiran Umapathy

I just had a wonderful, genuine conversation with a homeless man walking down 24th Street. He had bright, long fiery hair and a bushy beard to match (yes, I'm sure he wasn't what everyone just calls a hipster). He engaged me by telling me he has the same pair of headphones I did and that he likes to call them the cloudhoppers because of their size.

"Everyone wore that style in the 80s," he remembered. He went on to talk about how everyone has tiny eardbuds now and how he once lent some of those to a friend who ended up getting the rubber covering lodged in her ear and surgically removed. "Well, not surgically, but she had to go to the doctor and have them tweezed out," he corrected himself. "They asked me if I wanted the piece back and I said yeah, those are my earbuds!" I could only laugh.

I reached my destination and we parted, wishing each other the best possible rest of the day. If I'm honest, I was thinking about what random people thought of me talking to this guy. I hate myself for thinking that. It reminded me to make the effort to be open. So often we assume the worst about a stranger. They want something from me, they want to hurt me or are just a waste of time. But why must all our interactions be worth our time (whatever that means)? Why does everything need to be productive?

He didn't once ask me for anything and I suppose I let the conversation unfold because maybe he needed to talk to another human being. I just can't help but feel that, fuck dude, maybe I needed that conversation as much as he did.