Submitted photo

This chance encounter made a lasting impression.

Arriving at JFK, I caught the Airtrain to the subway, where I approached the automated token machine, inserted my money, and pushed the buttons for my tokens. Nothing happened. I try again—still nothing. My adrenaline increased. I asked my mother, who I felt was with me in spirit, to help me.

A young man appeared. “Can I help you?” he queries. I explain. He pushes the same selections. Success! As we walked to the platform, he told me where he was going and why. At the age of 22, his sister passed a year earlier. Stuck in Brazil, he could not make it to her funeral in the Dominican Republic. He was on his way there for a memorial service. He asked where I was going. He said he was going that way; why don’t I follow him. He is an accountant and lives on 42nd Street. “It isn’t like it was before,” he tells me. “It is cleaned up”. (I wondered why he would say that, as if knowing I was acquainted with the area.) He told me of a series of occurrences that day that seemed designed to keep him in New York, just as he had been kept from her a year previous.

His sister was ten years younger, but they were inseparable. She couldn’t eat much at one time so he would feed her a little throughout the day. Food – is a great connector. He showed me pictures of them as young children. She grew up to be a writer and student activist for water and food rights. He showed me two photos of her in National Geographic.

Previously, their parents had not allowed his sister to use a vehicle. On this occasion, her mother relented. At 10:30 PM, his mother called and urged her to head home. She had a “feeling.” “You mothers,” he remarked, “have these feelings.” (I hadn’t said a word about being a mother) His sister said she would leave soon. At 11:30 PM, his mother called again. The voice answering said there had been an accident. A tractor had pulled out in front of a vehicle.

His sister was in intensive care for eight days, had numerous surgeries, and was in an induced coma. She was a collector of sunglasses, and when he heard her ear was severed, he wondered how she would be able to wear them. He showed me his wrist tattoo with “101 razones para….” It was short for a piece she had written – 101 Reasons to Cry, 101 Reasons to Smile. He asked me why I thought he was telling me his story.


I responded that sometimes a story is not about us or it’s for a later time. His story connected the past and present. I had asked for my mother’s help and suggested his sister was with him, too, and using him for good things. I don’t believe our stories end with our earthly journey.

He nodded and accepted my answer. Saying he had made a mistake, he got off one stop before mine. As the doors closed, I could no longer see him. It was as if he hadn’t existed.

Like his sister, I am an activist, collect sunglasses, and write.

Was he my guardian angel?

My companion’s name? Ivan. Gift from God.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: