Some days are just like any other day. Some days, something really interesting happens. Like yesterday.
I was waiting for the bus after work, sitting quietly with my thoughts and my bags. I only had about five minutes left to wait when I noticed a thin, wiry man walking towards me, carrying two full plastic grocery bags. I had seen this man earlier that day as he had gotten on my bus on the way to work as well. He was the kind of person you just tend to notice. Something in the way he carried himself had caught my attention.
As the man came toward me, I noticed he had a prancing sort of walk. His greying hair was styled in a friar’s cap and his upper jaw stuck out quite far over the lower one. When he reached the bench, he put his bags down and immediately started talking to me. It was a stream of consciousness-type of talking – the kind where you really don’t have to say much yourself because the other person just keeps going on. I learned that today was his 55th birthday, that he had never drank, that he often gets harassed by people panhandling for money, and that he had escaped out the back door of his doctor’s office a few days before to avoid such a panhandler. He told me that he saw kids kissing downtown that were between 14-16 years of age, and that a friend had labelled him … the heart bandit.
With his eyes darting to and fro, the bandit quickly told me about all of his escapades drawing hearts on the back of dusty cars and trucks with his fingers. He told me there was one around the corner that he had drawn four hearts on. He had also drawn a heart on another car in the laneway nearby. Pointing way down the street to a white truck parked at the side of the road, he told me he had hit that one once too. There were several cars across the street at the gas station that he had ‘hearted’ as well. Over and over he drew imaginary hearts with both of his index fingers in front of him in the air, making an audible ‘zhoozh’ sound each time. The heart bandit confirmed that it was his trademark. He told me that it was difficult to ‘heart’ busses because they were too big. He sometimes did a really big heart on them though.
Eyes still darting, the bandit stood up from the bench. He started looking wistfully out into traffic as the cars drove by. He pointed out two cars sitting a lane over at a red light whose back windows looked particularly appealing. I had to warn him not to run into traffic because he had that look in his eye that he might do something unpredictable. I could tell the urge to ‘heart’ was gripping him strongly. Then he got his wish: a maroon PT Cruiser pulled up to a stop right in front of us with some fairly dusty windows. The heart bandit sprung into action.
My eyes flew open wide as the bandit scooted behind the PT Cruiser and performed ‘open heart surgery’ on its back window. It all happened in a matter of seconds, but it was quite a sight. The forty-something woman in the passenger seat quizically looked in her side view mirror to check the bandit out. I looked over at him and then back at the couple in the car, wondering just what would happen next. Would they think he was some freak trying to break into their car? A squeegee guy without a squeegee? Luckily both the woman and the man who was driving were smiling! As the car sped away when the light turned green, I giggled to see a very distinctive heart blazing on the back window in a thick layer of dust.
I asked the heart bandit when he came back to the bench, why did he do hearts? Why not happy faces? He said he didn’t have a happy face in him to give. I guess he did have some heart and decided that he could spare some for the rest of us. He said he’d been doing the hearts for a long time.
The bus came. We boarded. As it happens, the bus was crowded but the heart bandit got a seat right in front of me. As we drove on, passing all sorts of automobile possibilities for the bandit, he turned repeatedly in his seat to let me know about them. They were practically just mumbles to the rest of the passengers, but I knew was he was saying. There were some great heart candidates out there.
His stop came. He got up from his seat and turned, flashing me a great big, full of heart smile. And then he was gone. Well, not quite. Before the bus pulled away I saw him prancing off down the sidewalk and then … then darting into the road to ‘heart’ the back window of a black SUV that clearly needed some attention.