“Personal note: When your grandmother says something, do it. When she asks you to put oil in your hair, cover it. When she asks you to stay the night, stay the night.”
“When she tells you to break up with that guy, don’t try to justify your choice. Save yourself the heartache and break up with the guy. And most importantly, when your grandmother asks you to bring an umbrella, don’t check the weather forecast. Carry an umbrella.”
Vivian stopped the audio recording on her phone. This was the fourth spontaneous voice note she had recorded in the last hour.
“Nothing gets your creativity going like being stranded alone on a dark road and the rain threatening to break the roof of your broken down car.”
She had been watching the windshield wipers squeak back and forth as she thought, “I should have stayed with Grandma today.”
Luckily, she didn’t, because a few minutes later, she would meet the man who would make her heart skip a beat.
“Are you okay?”
A car had pulled up next to hers and a man rolled down the window to speak to her. Vivian was surprised that someone would stop in the middle of torrential rains to check on a complete stranger.
“Not really, no. The car won’t start. And I have a long way to go.”
The man thought for a second and said:
“Are you going uptown?”.
“Yes, that’s right,” and gave him the name of the street.
The man seemed to pause to think.
She thought he was making a plan in his mind:
“He’s going to offer to give me a ride. On the way he’ll tell me things I don’t need to know about his life. And then he’ll want to come up for coffee.”
“Gee, sorry, I had to look up the street. It’s way out of my way. I’d offer to drop you off, but I have to be home in an hour,” the stranger said, abruptly interrupting her thoughts.
Vivian was surprised at how wrong she was.
“This certainly isn’t my day,” she thought.
“But maybe I can take a look at the car,” he said.
He stepped out without hesitation as if it were a sunny day. Vivian started to open the door to get out of the car, but the kind stranger stopped her.
“No, no, stay inside. I’ll call you if I need you.”
Saying this, he smiled. And that’s when Vivian really saw it. The warmth and charm of his smile took her by surprise. This was new.
It took him less than 15 minutes to poke at the hood of the car before he asked her to try to start the car. His face was serious, his eyes narrowed and focused, and he stood with his hands on his hips, watching the headlights with anticipation.
Vivian wanted the car to start just to see him smile again, and it worked! The man let out an excited cheer. His victory smile was even more beautiful.
“Thank you so much! You’ve been incredibly kind,” she said.
Vivian tried to offer him money for his help, but he declined, politely.
“Help someone else later, it’s the best payment you can give me,” he said, and then explained his philosophy of life, not caring that he was standing in the rain.
“If I did something nice for you, be sure to pass this kindness on to someone else and the universe will find a way to ‘pay me back’ somehow.”
“That’s fascinating, you know what? We should definitely meet under drier circumstances,” Vivian said, with her particular sense of humor.
He laughed and nodded his head.
“Give me your number. I’ll call you soon.”
She gave him the requested information, and said goodbye to him with a good feeling in her heart. But a week had passed and she still hadn’t heard from Martin.
“He probably didn’t like me. Men don’t like funny women,” Vivian concluded.
There was nothing she could do about it. Being a comedian hadn’t been her childhood dream, but it fit her like a glove. And she hadn’t looked back since the day she reluctantly stepped on stage to do her first open mic set.
“Oh, Grandma! You were right, I should have stayed that night!” she told her grandmother over the phone.
The next few days, Vivian was stuck at work, doing presentation after presentation. By the end of the week, she couldn’t wait to rest her head in her grandmother’s lap and fall asleep.
The weekend flew by. On the drive home, the night was again rainy, and the streetlights on the road were still broken. But this time, her car ran smoothly and there was an umbrella in the back seat.
As she drove down the road, she saw the blurry image of a man sitting alone on the sidewalk a few feet ahead of her.
He appeared to be holding a stack of papers over his head to protect himself from the rain.
“He looks old. He’s probably lost.”
She almost continued on, as she kept thinking the man was a stranger, but then she remembered Martin’s words: do chain of favors.
“Let’s see if it really works,” she thought.
He stopped in front of the old man, rolled down the window and asked:
“Good evening, are you all right?”.
The old man tried to get up from the sidewalk, but he couldn’t get up more than a few inches.
“Wait, let me help you.” Vivian took the umbrella and got out of the car. “Do you have somewhere to go?” she asked after noticing that the man had no belongings with him.
The old man laughed and immediately grabbed his back in pain.
“I’m not homeless. I just had my appendix removed.”
The man went on to explain that he had undergone surgery earlier that day. His son was away for work, but promised he would arrive the next day at discharge time and take him home.
“But the hospital discharged me earlier than expected. And I realized I didn’t have my phone with me.”
The elderly man then thought about taking the bus home, but halfway there he realized he was on the wrong bus.
“So I got off at the next stop, which was here. And then, it started to rain. My documents are soaked, so I can’t prove that I’m telling the truth.”
Vivian put a hand on his shoulder and said:
“It’s okay. I believe you. No one can lie so well about a bad day! Let’s get you out of here. Do you remember your son’s phone number or your home address?”
The old man shook his head:
“I’m sorry, I’m being a burden to you,” the old man said, in frustration.
Vivian took a moment to come up with a plan and decided to put the old man up at her house for the night. It was a long journey that began with cheerful conversation, but soon, the man, exhausted, fell asleep.
She took the old man to the guest room, gave him some towels and dry clothes and made sure he had everything he needed by his bedside.
Before falling asleep, she thought of Martin. He would be flattered to know that she had taken his advice. And then he would have flaunted that smile of his!
She had to leave early the next morning. She drove her new friend back to the hospital according to plan. With no way to contact the man’s son, that was the only way to reunite them.
While waiting in the reception area, she learned a lot about the old man’s son. He owned multiple car dealerships in the neighboring city.
“If only I understood women as well as I understood cars…,” the man said, laughing at his idea.
Suddenly, he crossed eyes with someone in the distance.
“There’s my son!”.
As the man approached, Vivian couldn’t keep the shocked expression off her face.
“Martin?” The woman was too excited to notice the cooing in his voice.
“Vivian! What are you doing here?”
Vivian told him the whole story, and the old man interrupted her to emphasize how kind she had been to him. Martin couldn’t help but smile at the way the universe had reconnected them.
Usually, Vivian shrugged off theories that bet on the goodness of humanity. But this time, the evidence was too compelling.
“I thought I’d never see you again. I lost the slip of paper on which I wrote your number. For the next few days, I kept driving by the same place, in case you passed by on the same route.”
“Ah, so THIS is the funny girl with the beautiful smile!” said Martin’s father.
His son made an effort not to blush. Over the next few months there were many dates, spontaneous trips to the beach and Martin would attend Vivian’s presentations.
Her grandmother often pressed Vivian: “So when are you two getting married?”.
Vivian didn’t want to wait too long.
“Maybe this is as amazing as life can get. And that’s good enough for me.”
Vivian and Martin were having a great time. They stood by each other when he lost one of his biggest business deals and she was left out of a tour that would have brought her fame.
However, their material improved and Vivian loved having her grandmother, Martin, and her father laughing in the front row. At one of the many shows, the act was interrupted.
Martin went on stage, got down on one knee, pulled out a small velvet box and asked the love of his life to marry him.
“I’ll do it, but I’ll kill you first for embarrassing me like that!” joked Vivian, totally blushing.
When the couple exchanged vows in a beautiful ceremony a few weeks later, Martin’s father closed his eyes and thanked the universe.