Yesterday, at 6:09 A.M. I got on the MAX Orange Line to Milwaukie to go to work. I got on the last car of the MAX because it’s the nearest to my bus stop later. I sat near the back, but up toward the front, I could hear . . . there was a guy talking to himself, sounded drunk but nice enough.
I looked up his way and he had a 40 of malt liquor in a paper bag. He’d sip, slobber, and then speak. He was talking, almost shouting really, about truth and love and he spoke in a slurred voice, but boldly, as an angel. I’ve met a few bus angels, but never one on the MAX.
God loves you, he’s saying. He wants truth. Tell the truth. Why be afraid? God is love, so look someone in the eyes and tell them Truth. You can’t look ‘em in the eyes? Then you aren’t speaking Truth. On and on . . . and on. I actually began to wonder if there could be a drunk angel. This continued for 25 minutes of a MAX ride, and at one point he started talking, a little more softly, to a girl, a young, stylish woman actually, who soon was captivated. He drew her in with his words, and I could see her melting, and accepting this truth that he was offering. After a few minutes she reached out and shook his hand, even.
I was watching a movie, a motion picture from Trimet studios, and so I began trying to discern the plot. Where was this going? Was there an unexpected twist? Would I even get to see the end?
Well, we rolled on to the end of the line, and everyone has to leave the theatre there, and so I got off to catch the bus. I looked around for the girl, noticed others rushing to the Park and Ride, or to the bus stop. He got off too, after me, and I watched him. Some guys were following him, and I wondered if they were in the movie too, if the film was actually still rolling, after we had stopped.
On down McLoughlin about 20 meters, to the bus stop for the 33 and the 99. We all gathered, and at the stop, he was talking again, asking people how they were doing, and spreading what seemed like drunken good cheer all around. He never once looked at me or spoke to me, not until later. The paper bag was dilapidated by now, so he stashed his can in a rolling suitcase. And here comes the 33, my angel bus. The driver always stops wherever I’m standing, because of the uniform I guess, so I got on first—no ladies in waiting. Maybe 15 people already on, some ladies, and those who boarded, showed our fares and got settled in. I sat at the front. Then, the proclaimer of truth, he got on the bus last. He told the driver he had a ticket, but he’d sit down first and then show it.
She waved him on, and he sat down across from me, and the bus began moving. I waited one stop . . . I’m not watching the movie. I am in it. Three more stops for me, before my work stop, so I knew I had just a few minutes. I caught his eyes, directly across the aisle, and stared into them. The moment of truth . . . He had been proclaiming it loudly for a half-hour. Look someone in the eyes and tell the truth!
So I did.
Hey, where’s that ticket you told the driver about? I paid; where’s your ticket?
It’s in my sock, I keep it my sock. Then he said what’s your name? The whole bus is listening by now, and the driver is too. She slows down a little, and I can see her face in the rear-view mirror. I locked eyes again, and said what’s YOUR name?
Ok, Leon, my name is Timothy. Timothy, he says loudly, do you love God? I smiled, raised my eyebrows slightly, and said yes, indeed I do. Now, let’s honor him. That’s what my name means in Greek, Leon. Yeah, well you don’t seem like you love him. I said, yeah, the immediate truth is you’re drunk and you are trying to ride for free, and the bigger truth is you’ve been talking about the Word of Truth, and I’ve been listening. And everyone else here paid. Where’s that ticket? Right into his eyes—let’s see the ticket. I said I had a ticket. Yes, you did. Staring into his eyes . . .
He looks away, and then bends down, takes off his shoe, and digs into his sock. He’s digging in a dirty sock he’s pulled from his right foot, and finally he picks out this old ticket that looks a little like the bag his booze had been in. Then, he stumbles up to the driver, who says, yeah, I’ve seen that ticket before. It’s no good, and the next stop is yours.
Leon: but I got this ticket! The driver says, that’s from yesterday, and you know it, so you’ll be getting off at the next stop. Leon, comes back, sits down, and HE WILL NOT LOOK AT ME. I was ready to give him money for a good ticket, but he would not look me in the eyes again, and he needed to remember his words anyway. And he needed to turn them, later (when sober maybe?), into the Word of Truth. So I let him leave. And I got off at the next stop to go work hard for more Trimet tickets.
And you know, it IS hard work: delivering the Truth . . . no lie.