That comment obviously stuck with me...
The other day I was in Central Park working on a project. I had some down time so I sat myself on a bench, pulled out my note book and started working on a few things I needed to get done. About fifteen minutes went by before I met Eddie.
Who is Eddie?
Well Eddie is a 70ish year old man who tools around the city on a motorized scooter. I, for some reason peaked Eddie's interest as he scooted up right next to me and initiated conversation.
"Sorry to interrupt but is it raining?"
Seeing as both Eddie, myself and the sun were out, I was caught off guard. I stared at him as my mind flashed back to the day before when my dear friend Aidan and I were sitting in a coffee shop and a homeless man came in and walked straight up to our table and asked for money and left without bothering anyone else. Aidan experienced first hand the power of my stranger magnet.
Now Eddie wasn't homeless and he didn't ask me for a single penny which was nice but he was in fact incredibly weird.
Once I informed him that it wasn't raining he clumsily transitioned our conversation into the ups and downs of his life as a writer.
He pulled out a beat up pack of Camel Lights, struck a match and as he lit his cigarette I knew I was in for an interesting moment.
You see back in the 80's he used frequent a diner on the west side and at that diner he met a young aspiring singer. He told me how the two of them would stay up until the wee hours of the morning drinking coffee and talking about their ups and downs as aspiring artists. He had just moved back to the city after a couple years of living in and performing in Las Vegas and she told him how all she wants to do is sing but she had trouble believing she had what it took to make it in show business. But Eddie assured me that he believed in her. Apparently they remained close until one day she became the superstar he always told her she could be.
She no longer had time for Eddie and their late night coffee dates.
This upset Eddie. Even I could still see how upset this still made him as his eyes searched my face for a response that would give him peace of mind.
I had nothing. I didn't know what to say. Mostly because I was trying to decide if he was completely insane or if he was actually being sincere.
As he took the final puffs of his cigarette he told me that he waits outside her apartment complex on 81st street hoping that, even after all these years she would see him and they would pick up right where they left off. But no such luck.
"Maybe you should just move on." I said delicately.
"Would you mind reading the letter I am going to send to her, and let me know what you think?" He said with a bit of a pleading tone.
How could I say no?
So he digs into his scooter basket and pulls out a yellow legal pad, hands it to me, lights another cigarette, and watches me closely as I read his 4 page letter to Madonna.
When I see who it's addressed to I resolve that poor Eddie is probably more on the insane side and less of the sincere side of the spectrum. But I kept reading.
The letter was full of passion. Full of hurt. Full of confusion as to why he hasn't made it as an artist and why she had and so easily left him in the dust.
As he finished his second cigarette and I finished the letter I looked at his sad eyes and all I could say was...
"I'm sorry, Eddie."
And I was.
Whether or not he was insane or being honest didn't matter. I was sorry that he felt his dreams had never and will never come true.
We shared a smile.
He asked me to write down his home phone number and to give him a call if I'd ever like to meet up with him in the park and help him with some short stories he was working on.
I took his number down when my phone rang. I let it ring because I felt like Eddie needed me to be there with him for a little bit longer. So we sat there, he on his scooter, me on the bench and we shared some silence.
My phone rang again and I decided to pick up and give myself a way out of the conversation because I did need to go but I didn't have the heart to just walk away.
As we went our separate ways my first response was to laugh at the absurdity of what had just happened. I didn't know what to do except laugh at it.
But tonight, while I was ending a long and exhausting shift at work Eddie crept back into my thoughts.
Being an aspiring artist is terrifying. It requires great risk. But the passion to create and to dedicate your life to doing so is unexplainable but it's a necessity for survival if you are bitten by the artistic bug.
What if I never make anything of myself? What if I am always just a cocktail server with big dreams for the future and all of the sacrifices I've made to be in New York and follow my dreams were all for not? What if I go crazy and become Madonna's oldest stalker?
As I sat in my cab on my way home tonight I not only thought of Eddie but I thought of what my friend told me before I moved to New York.
"Write everything down."
And while I was writing down the story of Eddie, I realized that I am grateful that I was able to keep Eddie company that afternoon. Grateful to be someone for Eddie to connect with for a brief moment.
We were two aspiring artists, one young, one old. He shared a story and now I am sharing a story.
It didn't work out for Eddie. Maybe it won't work out for me...but by god I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it does. For me and for Eddie. Because I can't imagine doing and being anywhere else.
With great risk comes great reward...