When I turned 30, I promised myself that wherever Kelly was (Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, a certain “library” where all of her books are “published”), I would always try and make her proud of me.
To me, that means trying not to hurt other people deliberately, treating people whose opinions run counter to my own with some respect, trying not to make fun of people whose opinions, stances, and livelihoods aren’t “popular”, etc. Part of that also has expanded to waiting a little bit of time before passing judgment on someone because I know what it’s like to be seen and dismissed because of the way I look, act, and behave.
The young man I met at the McDonald’s on my way home from a jazz/billiards/ping pong hall in the West Village was “stranded” because it was close to 4 am and he lived in Jersey. He looked like your average post-college frat boy with his dark brown hair gelled up into a faux-hawk, a wide leather collar on his wrist, and an iPhone-imitator in his hands.
While we waited for our post-drinking breakfasts, he spun a story about needing to find a place to hang out for a while before his shift at a chain restaurant in the middle of Times Square. Having been in his same situation once or twice before, I decided to let him crash on my couch. And here’s where the story really starts.
The additional part of the story he spun was that he was a star of a Broadway musical that’s currently running. When we arrived at my place, I surreptitiously attempted to verify his claim by doing a Google search on my phone for the stage name he gave me; at least he got that part right. When I awoke this morning but while he was still asleep, I did some further investigation and the pictures I found of the actor he claimed to be did not match the face of the person sleeping on my couch.
Now, at this point, there’s a few conclusions I can make from this. He could be a consummate player, a compulsive liar, an opportunist who used my good will to scam me out of a place to sleep. If this is the case, then fair play to him, because I did let him into my home.
But even if he did “play” me, then what have I really lost? I was going to take a cab home anyway, I don’t have enough valuable items in my apartment to warrant a return visit, and since I live in Brooklyn and we were both tipsy, he’ll never be able to find his way back here on his own. I did a good deed by ensuring that he didn’t wander around Manhattan for hours, he’s going to get to his job on time and somewhat rested, and I have an interesting story to tell my friends (and the Internet, via this blog).
Since I stopped believing in God and the afterlife, I’ve started to put more faith into the system of karmic balance and the idea of “paying it forward.” My new philosophy is also tied into a section from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book Good Omens, wherein Crowley reveals that by causing a cell phone service interruption in the middle of the day, he has helped tempt more people into performing “evil” deeds because most humans tend to pass their anger and frustrations out on other humans.
Though the book itself is a work of excellent fiction, the fact that as people we tend to take our angers out on other people is pretty well-documented. I like to think that by giving this man a place to sleep for the night, even if it does turn out that he got it by devious means, he’s going to have a better attitude towards the tourists he serves in his restaurant. Those tourists will end up having at least one good moment of their vacation (because the prices they charge at the chain restaurants in Times Square is almost criminal) and will return home well-rested and more able to get on with their daily lives. And so on, and so forth.
I may probably never know why he chose to lie to me, but in the end it’s not important. What is important is that I’d like to think that somewhere, Kelly’s laughing along with me (or at me) about the whole situation, particularly the elaborate nature of the lie.
And that’s enough to keep me doing these good deeds.