I’M EXTRAORDINARILY BLESSED IN THE WAY of friends and family. I feel lucky that solace, advice, and a steadying sense of shared history are a mere phone call or digital tap away. Sometimes, though, the people who get you through are total strangers, folks you cross paths with for a few minutes or even less, who make a difference in your day or your life and move on, oblivious.
In my 20s I moved from San Francisco to Manhattan to pursue my (speech-obliterating cough) acting career. The Bay Area is fuzzy and friendly and relatively warm. Manhattan is spiky and cold and exhilarating. I was terrified. And my first few months there were probably the loneliest of my life. I wasn’t sure I was going to stay. One miserable winter morning on the bus, late for the day job I hated, I asked a woman near me what time it was. She looked closely at my face and said with great tenderness, “It’s 9 o’clock, baby.” It was as if she had looked into my soul and saw my self-doubt and fear. And when she smiled at me, it was as if the city itself was opening its arms. I stayed for four years.