A Noble Birthplace
Seeing an empty seat next to Maloof on the bus, and steeling my nerve for another strange confrontation, I sat down.
"Good morning, Noble!" I had to shout. His hoary ears pivoted toward the sound, "Oh, hello!" he said, as if he were shocked to see me even though he had watched me climb aboard the bus and pay my fare.
Sitting next to his slight body, I felt him tilt away as the bus took the corner.
He ventured to say, "Lovely weather this morning." I fired back with a chipper, "Yesterday was beautiful, too!" There was nothing he could say. We were at a standstill in the conversation and I had no intention of helping him out, despite my natural feminine desire to ease the tension.
As we turned another corner he began again, this time in earnest, "We got weather like this in England. Cool and with a breeze and all that." "Oh, were you born in England?" I've been waiting a year to ask him that question. "Oh, no," he looked embarrassed, "I wasn't born there." Pause. "So, where were you born?" I asked. Then Noble responded in one of the most classic of all human responses. He said, "Where do you think I was born?" I laughed out loud. "I have no idea where you were born, that's why I'm asking!" "Well, I was born in Cairo. In Egypt. That was a long time ago." Here he modestly shook his head and looked out the window. And I thought about the distance between him and his place of birth. Removed in space and time from this bus. I wondered if I would ever end up so far from the place I was born.
While I was thinking, Noble made yet another offer, "You should come up to my place some time for tea and you can look at my paintings." 'The Noble Collection,' I thought. "Ah, yes," I said, "I remember you telling me that you paint. What medium do you use?" "Hm?" he queried. "What type of painting supplies do you use; what medium?" He resonded with, "Well, they're not all my own paintings of course. A lot of them are French or Dutch." I wasn't sure why this mattered, but in the world of Noble, it obviously did.
"So you were raised in England?" I asked, hoping to prompt a further exposition into the antiquity to my left. "My father was a Colonel. He was stationed in Cairo when I was born. then we moved to England" "Ah, so he was in the military!" "No, no, he wasn't in medicine. No. He was a lineman." "In the Army?" I clarified. "Yes, of course! In the army!" Noble's patience with my stupidity momentarily wore thin and he glared out the window to collect himself.
I ate a mint and stared straight ahead.
He finally resumed the conversation. "So, you work downtown, yes?" "Yes. I get off at the same stop you do now." I'm still not sure why I volunteered that information. I even told myself not to. "What?" asked my favorite deaf man.
"The same stop as you. That's my stop now."
"Oh really!? You'll be getting off at that stop! That's... that's, ok, good." He was practically beaming. He was delighted. He smiled as we pulled up to our stop and followed me off the bus at our stop.
And so we wandered along the boulevard, talking and laughing; the air rich with warm summer breeze and the promise of love.