There was this man. He was captivating; I think because he was so wholly himself, with no apologies, and that is a rare quality. He was young, but an old soul, if you know what I mean. He wore a bow tie.
I saw him at the end of the weirdest day of my life. I went to work at the cubicle farm. That’s what I called my job as a mindless drone inputting data. It was so tedious and awful, but I was grateful to have something after months of unemployment. There was some sort of bomb scare, or something like that. I’m pretty sure the truth was mangled in its passage through the gossip mill as we all stood around in the street, sipping from our travel mugs and waiting until we could go back to our boring jobs. But the all clear never came. We all felt the huge rush of air that filled the space where our building used to be when it vanished. It blinked out of existence, leaving a bare cement pad. No one ever found it.
In the ensuing panic, I backed away from the mob. I’d been part of a mob before; it’s best to stick to the periphery if you have to be there at all. I heard someone behind me say, “Well, that was disappointing,” and I turned to see three people leaning against a blue police box wedged into a dirty alley. One was the man I mentioned before. The other two were a young man and woman. He was sort of homely, but nice, and she had flaming red hair. They seemed to be a couple, because he put his arm around her and they turned and went into the box. That was weird, because it didn’t look like they’d be very comfortable in such a small space.
The man in the bow tie saw me staring at them. His eyes widened for a minute, and he hurried over.
“Did you know someone in there?” he asked.
I told him I had worked there. He apologized profusely, and I said it wasn’t much of a job and I wouldn’t miss it, except that I wasn’t looking forward to being unemployed again. He nodded and thought for a moment.
“These things usually work themselves out. You humans have all sorts of elaborate insurance things to handle situations like this.” Like a building vanishing into thin air? I thought, but I didn’t say it aloud. Also, you humans? But he was still talking. “But I notice people who notice things. And you noticed us, so clearly you notice things. And I like that, and I don’t think the universe always rewards people who notice things appropriately. Do you have one of those money cards?”
I was pretty confused, but I trusted him. Something about his strangeness was comforting. I handed him my debit card. He pulled out a laser pointer thing and pointed it at my card, and it made a weird noise and lit up.
“That should do it,” he said. “You’ll be fine now. I should go; they’ll be waiting…” He trailed off, looking back at his blue box. Clearly it was magical in some way.
“Is that your space ship?” I asked, only half-joking.
He laughed a very strained laugh. “Yes, ha ha, something like that. You really are very clever, you know. I wish… But I really do have to run. I shouldn’t be found here. I hope you have a most excellent life, and that things come around for you.”
He leaned in and air-kissed me on both cheeks, which was a total surprise, then dashed back to the blue box and opened the door. Behind him I could just make out something that definitely looked like a space ship.
“Good luck,” he said, and jumped inside. The box started making a weird wheezing sound, like sick machinery, and then it pulsed into nothingness. It was gone, my job was gone, and I was rudderless again.
But when I stopped at a bank machine on my way home and checked my account balance, it was seven digits. I’m sure it’s totally thrown off the economy, but I’m awfully grateful. I’ve written this and posted it here in case he ever reads it, or someone who knows him comes across it and can convey my thanks. I have no idea if the whole thing was his fault or if he was trying to stop it, but he turned my life around, and I’ll never forget it.