Story of a silver lining

I want to share a little story. Something I will remember perhaps forever.

It was many years ago when I was studying in Australia and it so happened that, one time, after my winter break, I flew back to Australia on my birthday.

It was early in the morning when I arrived and I had to get to work right away. I had to go house hunting.

The last time I left Australia, I had left without an apartment to come back to and my belongings were held at a storage facility. A few of my school mates who were rooming together were kind enough to put me up at their place temporarily, but I didn’t want to impose on their hospitality for too long.

It was a cold, winter morning. I was feeling a little melancholic because I hadn’t managed to get any sleep on the plane, I hated the cold and I hated the feeling of not having a place of my own.

And nobody knew it was my birthday.

Nevertheless, I had work to do. Holding the classifieds in one hand and a street directory in the other, I went on a tram ride.

On the tram, a cute-looking fellow who was standing next to me showed me an address and asked if I knew how to get there.

Quite amazingly, he was also out house hunting and the place he was looking at was quite near my first destination.

I said, “I’m going to that area, too. Why don’t we go together?”

I can’t remember exactly where he hails from, but it’s somewhere in southeastern Europe. Like maybe Romania. He looked kinda exotic, in a way, and he had come to Melbourne to learn how to be a chef.

So we had a nice chat while he accompanied me to my first prospective home (a total slum, it turned out, where everything was rusty and falling apart), after which I accompanied him to his place (not any better).

After that, he asked if I wanted to sit down and have coffee with him.

Now, I was feeling a little bold that morning. Melancholy kind of does that to me. So, of course, I said yes.

It wasn’t that he was good looking. He wasn’t, really. Just kind of cute in a peculiar way. And, of course, there was that cute accent. Not that that had anything to do with anything.

There was a quiet cafe in a quiet petrol kiosk near where we were, so there we went.

And, there, I told him that it was my birthday.

He looked delighted and wished me a happy birthday. Five minutes later, he said, “Will you wait here for me? I’ll be right back.”

He literally ran off and I sat there wondering if I was going to get mugged or kidnapped or raped or who knows what, sititng there alone.

Well, not really, I suppose.

When mystery guy came running back (at this point, we had exchanged life stories but we hadn’t exchanged names), he was holding a stalk of plastic red rose enclosed in a clear cylindrical tube. On the top, a small, white teddy bear was held in place.

It was quite a silly looking gift ensemble, actually. But that’s not the point.

He smiled at me and said, “Happy birthday to you. Sorry, this was all I could find around here.”

And wasn’t that the sweetest thing ever. I was so touched, but not totally yet.

After that, we walked to the tram stop, about to go our separate ways. I thought he would ask for my number. Or at least my name.

He didn’t.

And that, of all things, touched me most of all.

Because, out in the middle of the cold nowhere, something romantic happened to me with no strings attached.

When my tram came, mystery guy waved goodbye to me and said, “Good luck for everything,” and that was the last I ever saw of him.