Monday, July 2, 2012

An Unusual Stranger

So, I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel in a Casino in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, filling out my unemployment claim online, see.  It's weird, you know, and I hope no one looks over my shoulder. They don't know I am not here to gamble but am interviewing Elders about the stories of wild rice, and how the Tribe will adapt to climate change. Still, it feels quite odd to be doing this in a Casino. Maybe that is what caused this peculiar encounter to happen, I don't know. You can be the judge. So here then, is the tale of the Unusual Stranger.

I am sitting at a small, round table, filling in the required bi-weekly job search form that enables me to collect my unemployment benefits. To my left hangs a beautiful birch bark canoe, to my right, a wall.  Directly in front of me is the coffee station, where hotel guests come to fill those nasty styrofoam cups with cheap coffee and fake cream. That station is what drew in the Unusual Stranger.

The man filled his coffee cup and turned to face me. He was large and had a suspicious look in his squinty eyes, the kind that says he doesn't trust the world. Here is what he said, without pause.

"I don't like women who keep secrets, I mean if you can't be honest in a marriage then, well why get married, and if they are gonna keep secrets then I just [pushes away with hand gesture]. I got married once, I would have jumped in front of a train for her, I didn't do anything sinful or against God, I was just devastated, I was in the hospital for a long time, we went to North Dakota to get the hell out of the UP. I never got married again, I stayed true to my vows and my commitment, just like the Catholic church says. I was devastated, the Priest saved my life I was so depressed I was gonna kill myself."

"Uh huh," I said, nodding. What else could I say? Why do I attract people like this, I wondered?

He goes on. "That priest he was a good guy, he saved my life four times the first time I have sleep apnea and he woke me up when I had stopped breathing for along time, then another time I have diabetes you know, and he got me to the hospital and my sugar was over 1200, now the doctor didn't tell ME this but I found out, then another time he saved me from cancer, and then from suicide. But he got sick and now he has Stage IV prostrate cancer and it is in his spine, that is really too bad he was a good guy that Priest. Now it took along time for me to get on disability but I don't make much money on that, well anyway," and he walked out the door.

The Unusual Stranger said much more than this, but he mumbled often and turned around facing away from me so I couldn't hear him half the time. But that was OK, I could imagine what he was saying.

I am sitting here wondering if my filing for unemployment in a Casino unleashed some weird cosmic force that distorted reality for a moment. I don't know if the Unusual Stranger ever really existed. As soon as I clicked "submit", he was gone. Please call and check on me Wednesday night to be sure I made it home. Something weird is going on in the UP.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Barb,
    Thank you so much for your blog, for sharing so honestly.
    I'm on the other side of the spectrum at this time, over- worked.
    Reading your blog at night always gifts me with the moment to forget work; unwind, reflect, smile, tear up, be a kid from Eagle Lake again.
    Thank you, thank you.
    Always sending best wishes, positive energy....