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Give her your fork

August 20, 2009


It was late on a weekday evening on the under-ground stretch of the Red Line headed north out of the Chicago loop. I had just gotten back on the El after jumping off at Belmont to get dinner from my favorite Thai place, and was on the way to a friend’s apartment to stay the night.

I did this every week. Class all day, spend the night at Mike’s, make Mike buy me breakfast at Clark’s, class all day, and back to the ‘burbs. Every week I stopped at Duck Walk for dinner, and every week I threw away a plastic fork because I always asked for chop sticks and they always gave me both.

I was half asleep and just chatting with Holy Spirit (in my head) when this woman got on the train. She was a little taller than me, rather stocky, and dressed completely in black. The black over-coat diffused any shape she may have had. Her hair was greasy, kind of short, and so standing at all different angles. She kept her head down, even when she looked up. All in all, pretty typical of the subway in Chicago after dark.

I liked the seats that faced the isle because no one was behind me. She chose a seat facing me, a few rows away, right on the isle, and immediately pulled out a white take out box full of fried rice. I glanced away, back to the general people watching, but something about her was magnetic.

I looked back and she was eating said fried rice with her hands. Head down, eyes occasionally darting up beneath her frazzled hair, rice stuck all over her fingers – which, naturally, she would lick.

“Give her your fork.”

I knew instantly that it was Him and I knew instantly I was not going to be obedient.

“Um, no.”

“Give her your fork.”

“That is so rude. Look, I know I’m not going to use the fork. That’s not the point. The point is you do not approach greasy strangers on the subway at night, especially not to say, ‘Excuse me, you’re grossing everyone out. For the love of God, here’s a fork.’ So. Rude.”

We rode in silence. The greasy woman put the fried rice away. I took a deep breath.

“Go talk to her.”


“Go talk to her.”

“I can’t go talk to her, she’s on the isle. What do You want me to do, squat in the isle next to her? I’ll be in everybody’s way.”

The conductor announced the next stop. The Korean man next to her excused himself and got up. The greasy woman slid toward the window into the newly vacated seat, leaving the seat on the isle wide open.

“You’re hilarious.”

“Go talk to her.”


As I stood up, she leaned against the window and pulled her coat up, over her head. But I was already sitting next to her. I shook my head at myself and tapped her on the shoulder.

She turned to look at me. I introduced myself, said I noticed her get on the train, explained my faith that God speaks to people, and encouraged her as Holy Spirit put words in my mouth. She lit up. She absolutely lit up, and I could see the child she was to Him in her eyes. I could see a weight melt off of her, and I could see her trying not to cry.

The conductor announced the next stop.

“This is me. I gotta go, but hopefully some of that makes sense to you.”

“Oh it does. Thank you so much.” She shook my hand as I got up, and thanked me again.

She shook my hand. I got half-way to the door of the train and realized she shook my hand … with her hand … and cringed a little to myself.

“I told you to give her your fork.”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2009 10:45 am

    I actually remember you telling me that story. And I thought it was pretty incredible. Hopefully her life picked up after that :)

    • Lex permalink
      August 20, 2009 4:03 pm

      I remember telling you about that. And then eating Thai food and watching some dumb movie. :)

  2. August 20, 2009 8:22 pm

    I remember you sharing this story with me too. :)

  3. mattchoobob permalink
    August 20, 2009 11:03 pm

    did I miss something? I feel like I did.. you can tell me tomorrow night what I’m missing..

  4. Lex permalink
    August 21, 2009 11:49 am

    @Jen – Haha. Ya, remember that? Like, two days ago? ;)

    @Matt – I didn’t give her my fork ’cause I thought it would be really rude. So she licked fried rice off her fingers repeatedly. Ten minutes later she gave me a hardy handshake with that same hand. Holy Spirit was trying to preemptively help me out and I didn’t listen.

  5. Don Reed permalink
    August 21, 2009 1:40 pm

    You’re awesome, Lex.

    I never heard that story just for the record.

  6. Becky permalink
    August 21, 2009 4:48 pm

    This is a funny, though poignant, story. The way you ended it seems like Jesus was a tad annoyed that, though you’d spoken with her, you still forgot to give her the freaking fork. I guess he’s more pragmatic than we like to think.

    • Lex permalink
      August 21, 2009 5:48 pm

      @Don – No, YOU’RE awesome.

      @Becky – Maybe. At the time, though, I really felt Him smiling at me. It seemed more like we had a chuckle together as I got off the train ’cause I was grossed out and He was like, “I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. The fork thing was for your own good.”
      Looking back on the whole thing later that night I realized that not only would I have been less grossed out, it might have been an easier introduction for what He knew we were going to say to that woman anyway.

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