If it wasn't enough that I was young and clearly a college student, I was also wearing a bright pink T-shirt proclaiming that sex education saves lives; needless to say, I stuck out like a sore thumb in the southern town. Yet, even with my fingers trembling I was convinced that I would be perfectly safe, that I didn't have to rely on anyone for help.
My cellphone was neatly tucked away in my handbag and my fear was causing me to start talking to myself. "It'll be okay, Priya. You've dealt with 2,000 pound horses, so a dangerous person is nothing to you." Much like my pride, my pep talks weren't very helpful but neither was the cooing I received from the next bus stop I contemplated waiting at.
Two perfectly innocent strangers were walking right towards me but rather than seeing them as helpful, I saw them as dangerous. Dingy hair, a banged up eye, crutches and an old back pack were what greeted me as the woman sat down next to me. "What's your name?"
"Annie," I lied because I was too scared to tell the truth. "You don't look like you belong here, where are you headed?"
"I'm trying to get to Corporate Blvd but I got off the bus too early so I'm waiting for the next one. Do you know when it's coming around?"
"Probably not for another hour but you should really get out of here before that. You're young and you don't blend in very well. I'm only helping you because you look like my niece and I can't see you get hurt. You're like fresh meat out here." The woman with stitches over her right eye pulled out her small wallet and showed me a picture of her beautiful niece. "You look exotic just like her. Isn't she pretty?"
"She's gorgeous," I replied, shocked by the size of her injury as well as the picture of her fully clothed, clearly better off relative. "So Mike and I are going to walk you to wherever it is you need to go — the bus station is only a few blocks away and you can catch the next bus out there but I want you to be safe."
"Thank you so much." I could feel my jaw drop. "Don't mention it, we don't want you to get hurt."
The woman had been beaten with a bottle of alcohol after someone snuck into her tent and the evidence was as clear as the stitches over her eye. The man she was with, Mike never told me his story — he was silent but helpful, mumbling occasionally and walking slowly along with his crutches and his casted arm.
After my agonizingly long wait at the station and being hit on by an elderly man, all I could think of was those two people. Those two wonderful people who had in that time made me realize how perpetually incredible and blessed my life is. "You be careful now, I'm gonna be worried about you all night."
"Thank you both for everything; thank you so much." And even after calling my aunt to pick me up from my final destination, I couldn't help the tears from falling down my face.
That common string keeping us together as creatures has gone from being so very inclusive to constantly being cut, separating us based on age, race, gender and now social economic class. Now, the commonality that used to be so standard — our humanity — has changed in such a way that we have to prove our likeness to others just to feel safe, to give us a false sense of security.
The problem lies in the fact that we've come to confuse rich and poor, old and young, black and white with good and evil — forgetting that what actually defines us isn't what we look like but rather what we stand for as I was so humbly taught by Mike and Barbara.
By Priyanka Bhatia, a 19 year old Pre-Veterinary Sophomore at Louisiana State University and a writer for the Daily Reveille.
Your eyes meet, and for some reason there is a connection.
It isn't romantic or even a suspicion that this person could
mean something in your life. Instead, the epiphany is that
you ARE that stranger—your experience merges with theirs.
You are flung outside your narrow boundaries, if only
for a moment, and that makes all the difference."