Editor’s note: This guest essay was written by Anna Coumou.
Have you ever noticed that, once someone starts, every single person thanks the bus driver as they get off the bus? Maybe it’s because they feel guilty, but maybe it’s because they’re kind. In a crowded coffeeshop, strangers are calmly sharing tables. Maybe they’re waiting for the other person to leave, but then again, perhaps they’re enjoying the casual intimacy that is space-sharing and laptop-nudging? Bystanders haven’t let me drop a mitten and walk away from it since I was 6 years old. What is kindness? I’m not sure. But I know when something like it happens, it feels really good, and it’s so worth remembering. Maybe even writing down.
The coffeeshop is empty when I walk in. The barista recommends a minty mocha and adds: “Your outfit is amazing today.” I thank them. “I really tried!” I have a Meeting that day, and my confidence is boosted. An hour or so later, I walk outside, passing the mail courier. “That’s a great skirt!” they say, somewhat softly, like lots of moments of casual femme intimacy are. As I approach my car, someone is out walking their dog, a white boxer. We make eye contact. “This is Renna. She’s 8.” I hunch down and take in the pets. I get into my car and realize: Damn. That was just three blocks.
I attend a beer festival. The room is 98 percent male. I go to the bathroom, and hunched over the sink, I make eye contact with the person next to me. “No line today, huh?” she says. I chuckle. “Nope. Great day to have a vagina.” She chuckles.
Forest and I are in the car crossing the Ballard Bridge. “Okay, it’s about to get a little narrow. Just — don’t panic, okay? I know you like to panic.” Forest is teaching me how to drive — or, actually, he’s re-teaching me. I had a license, once, but it’ll take another driver’s test to get a current one. “Don’t be one of those people that slows down on hills, okay? Go on, floor it.” He’s a unique kid; somewhat frantic, near-pathologically social but private and cynical all the same. He offered to give me lessons the second I mentioned I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of driving again. “Kindness doesn’t really happen here, I guess,” he says, after I ask him to tell me about his experience in Seattle. “I mean, there’s some stories from the East Coast, I guess.” I perk up. “But I’m not telling you those. I want to keep those.” He packed two bright pink chairs in the back of the Honda Fit — somehow — and pulls them out in an empty parking lot. “Okay, park in between them. Don’t f*** it up, okay, please.”
I move to Ravenna, and begin fixing up my new apartment. It’s got a lot of potential, I decide, and will really come into itself with a few hooks and shelves up. Three weeks in, I find myself at the hardware store up the street again when the checker asks: “Did you just move here?” I admit it. “I thought you were in here last week.” I chuckle. “Yes, and the week before, possibly…” “Right
on. So how many shelves are you putting up?”
I travel all the way to Beacon Hill (very far from where I live) to meet my crush, and he tells me we can’t see each other anymore. I cry funeral tears at a bus stop just a few blocks from Jefferson Park. It’s a residential street, but it’s dark out, and I think I’m alone. There’s a ruffle. A woman emerges from the green yard of the house in front of the stop, holding two glasses of red wine. “Those are some real tears”, she says, handing me a glass. A few minutes later, her partner comes down. They listen. They’re kind. I wait a bus or two, and take off.
Anna Coumou is a Ballard-based (copy)writer, whose work you may have seen in The Stranger, on Curbed Seattle, or in an ad somewhere. She’s a slightly skilled sailor, sometimes soccer-player, and she’ll hike anywhere. Find more of her writing on Medium (@annacoumou).