Hallways

Strange things happen in hallways. Beautiful things. Painful things.

This morning when I arrived at my office building, I saw a student crying into her cell phone in the hallway.  Another student, whom I knew, was comforting her. Since I knew the crying woman was in good hands, I passed by without saying a word, nodded to the woman I knew, and climbed another flight of stairs. When I reached the third floor, I saw a colleague hovering in the hallway. He’s not someone I know well, him being a VIP and me being a lowly in the trenches gal. But he seemed to be waiting for me. He knew I saw her, too.

“There’s a girl crying downstairs.”

I nodded. “I know the student she’s with. She’s in good hands.”

“She’ll be okay?”

“Yes.”

We went our separate ways. Later that day, in the hallway on the second floor, I saw a man who looked to be in his late sixties. He was dressed in a suit, wandering around,  lost. I wanted to ignore him, but I couldn’t.

“Can I help you find something?”

“Yes,” he said. “I need to speak to an advisor. My daughter was admitted here, but she couldn’t make the Open House. I’m on my way to visit her at prep school. I thought I’d stop by and talk to someone about your Learning Communities.”

The only prep school I knew of in the area was about an hour away, exclusive, expensive. He looked quite old to have a daughter who was a high school senior. We made small talk while I walked him to the appropriate office.  When we arrived, he shook my hand, thanked me for my help. We went our separate ways.

As I was preparing to leave work that same day, I left my office suite to get a glass of water from the fountain. A young man was seated at a table in the hallway, looking at his laptop and wiping his eyes with a paper towel. It took me a moment to realize that he was crying. It’s so seldom one sees men cry. I hesitated, but in the end I knew I couldn’t just walk by and ignore him.

“Are you okay? Can I help?”

“My friend just died.”

He went on to explain that it was a girl he’d grown up with.  He showed me her photo on Facebook. She was smiling, and so young. Her beautiful soul radiated out of the computer screen. She wore a silky scarf over her head.

“She had cancer?” I asked.

He nodded.

I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry. Do you want to talk? My office is right over there.”

He shook his head. “No, thank you. She’d be mad if she saw me crying.”

We spoke for another minute, then I left him alone with his grief.

What is a hallway but a passage from one place to the next?

Husbands and wives, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters pass each other in hallways without saying a word.

When I was a child, after my parents divorced and I had teenaged babysitters all the time, the neighborhood kids used to come over and play hide and seek in my house at night. With all the lights out, no one ever found me when I climbed up the hallway walls, one foot and one hand on each wall, until I was near the ceiling. In that same house, I used to have dreams that I was flying down the hallway, about a foot off the ground, and I could see everything that was happening, and that had ever happened, in that house.

The next time you’re in a hallway, stop, look around, and feel.

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