“Angel?” the punk repeated slowly, turning to join the rest of us in staring at the young man in the polo.
We all watched, confused, as the young man’s shoulders slumped. He bent down to one side, fiddling with a shoulder bag, and then withdrew a brightly glowing circle. At first, I guessed that it had to be some sort of glow stick, joined to make a ring, but it was far too bright.
The young man raised the glowing ring up above his head, holding it in the air about three inches above his short, bed-head styled hair. He released the ring, and the other members of the train car let out a soft but still audible gasp as it hung in the air, bobbing slightly as the young man below it shifted.
Halo affixed, he then moved forward, taking a seat dejectedly on the steps going up to the car’s slightly higher seats. “Yeah, angel,” he said hopelessly. “Guardian angel, for what it’s worth. Not much. Man, a couple months ago I was still in the reaping division!”
The rest of us exchanged glances. Finally, since no one else seemed to be willing to make the move, I stepped up to the plate. “So, angels are real?” I asked. “God, the devil, all of that stuff? It really exists?”
The angel glanced up at me. “Of course!” he replied. “Well, I mean, as far as I know.”
“You don’t actually know?”
He shook his head. “Nah. It’s like in that one movie, with Matt Damon, right?”
“The Bourne Identity?” the punk offered.
The angel started to nod, but then paused. “Maybe? In any case, I haven’t ever met God or Lucifer myself. Way too many layers of bureaucracy in the way. But I’ve heard from folks who say that they know other folks who have seen them, so I’m pretty sure that they exist.”
After this little speech, the angel seemed to lapse off into dejected silence. The old woman sitting in the handicapped seating area leaned forward and poked him with her cane. “What happens to us after we die?” she demanded.
The angel looked up as she continued to jab him in the arm with her cane. “Hey, not my department,” he shot back. “Besides, you’ve got nearly half a year till you have to worry about it, so calm down.”
After a moment to think through the meaning of this, the old woman squawked wordlessly, and leapt up off her seat. She scurried to the opposite end of the train car, from where she focused on shooting the evil eye at the angel. He appeared not to notice, once again drooping his head down between his shoulders. His halo seemed to dim sadly.
Unexpectedly, I felt a surge of pity. I got up out of my seat, slowly moving closer to the angel until I could pat him sympathetically on the shoulder. “There, there,” I murmured, not quite sure what to say. “Things will work out.”
More hands joined mine on the angel’s shoulders and back. I glanced up, to find that the other passengers of the train had also come forward to provide comfort. “Listen,” wheezed the older man who had been sitting next to me. “Just when things get dark, that’s when you have to pull up hardest, because something better’s about to come along.”
The middle-aged woman nodded. “He’s right,” she agreed. “You’re still young, you’ve got your health, and you’ve got a job. Plenty of time to figure things out.”
The punk kid, standing behind the angel, gave him a soft punch in the shoulder. “Look, screw my date,” he said. “She was kind of a jerk anyway.”
As we continued to provide soft words of encouragement, the angel shakily made his way back up to his feet. Once he was standing, we all felt a jerk beneath us, as the train started rolling again. In less than a minute, we were pulling into the next station.
The guardian angel looked around at all of us. “Listen, thank you,” he said, his voice earnest but sounding as if it was about to break. “You’re all wonderful people, and this is why my job isn’t quite as bad as it could be.”
He headed for the doors, but paused, glancing back at the old woman, who was still glaring at him. “Listen, I didn’t mean that ‘six months’ thing!” he yelled. “That was a little human of me, that’s all!”
And with that, he was gone. To be honest, I still haven’t quite figured out what to make of the whole event. I was a few minutes late to work, but no one noticed. And I was certainly nicer to people for the rest of the day. A couple choice curse words aren’t worth going to Hell, you know?