I came across this Missed Connections Craigslist post and it reminded me of how you never know the impact you may leave on someone’s life. A man recounts the lifesaving and life-changing interaction he had with a stranger one rainy night 43 years ago when he had plans to end his life.

The power of kindness is immeasurable. Please take the two minutes to read this story.


 

I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972 – m4w (Old State House)

Massachusett : Massachusetts

I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972, the same day I resolved to kill myself.One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I’d flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs. How many homes I destroyed, how many lives I ended, I’ll never know. But in the eyes of my superiors, I had served my country honorably, and I was thusly discharged with such distinction.And so on the morning of that New Year’s Eve, I found myself in a barren studio apartment on Beacon and Hereford with a fifth of Tennessee rye and the pang of shame permeating the recesses of my soul. When the bottle was empty, I made for the door and vowed, upon returning, that I would retrieve the Smith & Wesson Model 15 from the closet and give myself the discharge I deserved.I walked for hours. I looped around the Fenway before snaking back past Symphony Hall and up to Trinity Church. Then I roamed through the Common, scaled the hill with its golden dome, and meandered into that charming labyrinth divided by Hanover Street. By the time I reached the waterfront, a charcoal sky had opened and a drizzle became a shower. That shower soon gave way to a deluge. While the other pedestrians darted for awnings and lobbies, I trudged into the rain. I suppose I thought, or rather hoped, that it might wash away the patina of guilt that had coagulated around my heart. It didn’t, of course, so I started back to the apartment.

And then I saw you.

You’d taken shelter under the balcony of the Old State House. You were wearing a teal ball gown, which appeared to me both regal and ridiculous. Your brown hair was matted to the right side of your face, and a galaxy of freckles dusted your shoulders. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

When I joined you under the balcony, you looked at me with your big green eyes, and I could tell that you’d been crying. I asked if you were okay. You said you’d been better. I asked if you’d like to have a cup of coffee. You said only if I would join you. Before I could smile, you snatched my hand and led me on a dash through Downtown Crossing and into Neisner’s.

We sat at the counter of that five and dime and talked like old friends. We laughed as easily as we lamented, and you confessed over pecan pie that you were engaged to a man you didn’t love, a banker from some line of Boston nobility. A Cabot, or maybe a Chaffee. Either way, his parents were hosting a soirée to ring in the New Year, hence the dress.

For my part, I shared more of myself than I could have imagined possible at that time. I didn’t mention Vietnam, but I got the sense that you could see there was a war waging inside me. Still, your eyes offered no pity, and I loved you for it.

After an hour or so, I excused myself to use the restroom. I remember consulting my reflection in the mirror. Wondering if I should kiss you, if I should tell you what I’d done from the cockpit of that bomber a week before, if I should return to the Smith & Wesson that waited for me. I decided, ultimately, that I was unworthy of the resuscitation this stranger in the teal ball gown had given me, and to turn my back on such sweet serendipity would be the real disgrace.

On the way back to the counter, my heart thumped in my chest like an angry judge’s gavel, and a future — our future — flickered in my mind. But when I reached the stools, you were gone. No phone number. No note. Nothing.

As strangely as our union had begun, so too had it ended. I was devastated. I went back to Neisner’s every day for a year, but I never saw you again. Ironically, the torture of your abandonment seemed to swallow my self-loathing, and the prospect of suicide was suddenly less appealing than the prospect of discovering what had happened in that restaurant. The truth is I never really stopped wondering.

I’m an old man now, and only recently did I recount this story to someone for the first time, a friend from the VFW. He suggested I look for you on Facebook. I told him I didn’t know anything about Facebook, and all I knew about you was your first name and that you had lived in Boston once. And even if by some miracle I happened upon your profile, I’m not sure I would recognize you. Time is cruel that way.

This same friend has a particularly sentimental daughter. She’s the one who led me here to Craigslist and these Missed Connections. But as I cast this virtual coin into the wishing well of the cosmos, it occurs to me, after a million what-ifs and a lifetime of lost sleep, that our connection wasn’t missed at all.

You see, in these intervening forty-two years I’ve lived a good life. I’ve loved a good woman. I’ve raised a good man. I’ve seen the world. And I’ve forgiven myself. And you were the source of all of it. You breathed your spirit into my lungs one rainy afternoon, and you can’t possibly imagine my gratitude.

I have hard days, too. My wife passed four years ago. My son, the year after. I cry a lot. Sometimes from the loneliness, sometimes I don’t know why. Sometimes I can still smell the smoke over Hanoi. And then, a few dozen times a year, I’ll receive a gift. The sky will glower, and the clouds will hide the sun, and the rain will begin to fall. And I’ll remember.

So wherever you’ve been, wherever you are, and wherever you’re going, know this: you’re with me still.


Image by Gabriel Santiago


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Kinda Kind

Kinda Kind

It’s become my mission to show the world that not only is kindness fun and easy to do, but also that small actions can have giant impacts. That’s why I started Kinda Kind. I’m glad that your path has led you here and I’m glad we’re on the journey together to make kindness badass.

  • jexni

    Seems rather dubious to me. Flying over Hanoi at up to 50,000 feet in a pressurized aircraft you aren’t going to smell smoke from bombs that you dropped miles back, anymore than you can smell Cleveland as you fly across the US in a commercial airliner. The load for a B52 would have been minimally over 100 bombs not 48. In ’72 it is more than likely the entire crew were officers or warrant officers and the writer would not have been discharged when he was released from active duty even if he was released immediately upon completion of this final tour. This might be well written but it likely isn’t true.

    • Rebecca

      Jexni, I say this respectfully: shut up and enjoy the beauty of the story.

      • jexni

        I don’t find lies beautiful, but I’m not a woman.

        • PissBoy

          Well, then being the bastion of knowledge of everything that is war that you so smugly portend to be…kindly jump up your own ass. Or maybe you can go yell at the kids outside for laughing too happily.

          • Zugzug

            I really don’t understand why anybody would have a problem with someone pointing out that this story is probably fake.

            If it’s a lie then it should be exposed. Simple as that.

        • you’re not a woman so hard it’s astounding

      • Zugzug

        What absolute nonsense.

        I thought it was okay as a story but hardly spectacular. Certainly not good enough that it required a slavish suspension of disbelief and attacks on non-believers.

        • too meta

          • Zugzug

            How appropriate.

    • Cleo

      On the contrary, it probably is very true for the man who wrote this. The memory of the smell of smoke can be just as real for this writer as the actual experience. It doesn’t matter that the smoke on that sortie was far behind him. And who says he had to drop all 100 bombs? This is story is very real in the writer’s mind, and that makes it valid, regardless of any skeptic’s demand for verifiable physical evidence. What’s important is that his memory of that encounter saved his life, and he is grateful. And I’m thankful that I read it.

    • WordOfTruth

      While some aspects of the story may be embellished or mis-remembered…you can’t say for sure that the meeting with him and this woman wasn’t. It seems awfully detailed, complete with dates and locations that clearly only he and someone else could remember. At the end of the day, not sure it matter what you or I think.

  • Craig Reynolds

    You know what some of you? You must really be miserable about at least part of your life that you have try and deny that a story is true. You are free to believe what you want, but know this! The writer or anyone else does not owe you anything. You are entitled to nothing. No one forced you to read it. Some of you must be true F-tards to be around.

  • Unlikely Hero

    Since none of you wrote this in craigslist my guess would be you weren’t involved in the story either. Safe to say if you weren’t there you aren’t a subject matter expert on this story and it’s origins .

    I ate a pizza today? Can you prove or disprove my story?

    Have a wonderful day

  • Clint Hanson

    I think people can discuss whether or not the post seems true or not without being attacked. Just because you believe the story, and were taken in by the emotion around it, does not mean you have to attack someone else. The only reason you would attack them is because you are scared it may be false, and you were taken in, so you do not want to be shown to be a fool. If it moved you, you should not care either way, if it was or was not true, and whether someone else chooses to believe it. You only belittle yourself by attacking someone else so violently. I have no idea whether the story is true, I have no idea whether it is “Quite Possibly The Most Beautiful Craigslist Missed Connections Post” ever. I do know the writer is adept at writing, there is a few things in the details that make me not 100 percent certain the entire story is real, it could be embellishment, or it could be completely made up, the crafting of the way it is told tells me the writer is intelligent enough to make up the details, like the dates etc. I have no idea if for instance 48 bombs seems legit, given that normally the 121 b52’s would have each dropped thousands of bombs over the course of those days. Seems like a low number, but like I said, I admit unless i was there I would have no idea as to the legitimacy. But I do like to at least question it, and that does not mean I am attacking the writer by doing so, to take everything you read at face value without questioning is the very trouble we have currently in the world. To many interested parties controlling media outlets and putting out false stories which people are eager to believe hook line and sinker. How about we let people question without making it mean something about the writer, the readers, or anything, other then a normal human reaction, and a healthy one.

    I like the sentiment of the story, and it does have some truth in the way that people are, so that is what matters most.

  • Kestrel

    A story about kindness brought to you by a link from a site dedicated to being kind and….this. If every story without proof was dismissed as BS, we’d have no religions. People want to believe what they want to believe. How many stories on Facebook have you seen like the Marine who waited all night with the man who turned out to be his father or some such drivel? They’re written like Reader’s Digets features. Are they truthful? Nope. But they show people there is a possible reality out there that is lovely and kind. Potential niceness.
    Why do people believe such things? Because they want the well-written, emotionally wrought fluff to be true because they cannot see a beautiful story in their own little lives unless it is pointed out to them in an appropriately titled post of a Chicken Soup book. They only know their grandma who hates little kids and not the lovely elderly woman who lost 7 children and can’t bear to look at them for fear of breaking down. Same woman, different spin. One is reality, one is romantic.
    To call people Ftards and tell them to STFU over a story about lost love is so painfully ironic.
    It’s not true so the sentiment doesn’t count!
    It is true and Scrooges can’t see the wonder that is Love (Compelte with butterfly emoji and 4,000 Likes as verification}.
    Let people take out of these parables what they want. If it’s literally, then they think wonderful things are true like angels. If people look at this as sentimental dreck, then they appreciate honesty and down-to-earth qualities in their lives. They’ll accept this as a tale, not an accounting.
    Why does the fact that some people beiekieve ine and others believe something different drive so many people BATTY is the real question. BOTH sides of this coin should see that it is better to let other people take from these things what they will. Threats, intimidation and belittling someone serve no one an ounce of good. Ever.
    That is the real story here. Don’t hate someone else because they challenge your patience with their differences. Take the opportunity to wonder why a stranger’s opinion matters so much to you.