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Dear Paul Mahoney

August 17, 2004 | Category: In My Life

Dear Paul Mahoney,

I bet you're surprised to see your real name on the internet. Well, I gave that some thought. And I realized, I could counter some of the dark corners of life by outing YOU. I hope you don't mind.

You are a real person, and you did something noble at an age when nobility and kindness are almost out of reach. I thought that deserved the credit of your own name.

You may not remember. So let me help you. You went to school in Fairfield County, Connecticut during the late 70's. And for the last 15 minutes each day it was just you and me.

You were popular. You looked like a young Paul McCartney, a little. You were comfortable in your skin, with a quick sense of humor and a big heart. You were known for being a flirt, but a good guy. You were into music, and as soon as the bus was a little emptied you'd convince the bus driver to turn up the radio.

I thought you were the coolest person I knew.

Conversely, I was pretty beat up. The kids bullied me something fierce for a while. Over the months, it softened to a dull roar; I made a few friends and had someone to each lunch with.

But I hated school, Paul. Counted the days in between the holidays.

At the beginning of the year, you were strictly a "back of the bus" guy and I was at the front. I would curl up behind the bus driver for safety. You'd expand, somehow. Taking up the entire bench seat with your arms and legs and white smile.

One day, in the crisp end of autumn, you yelled to me. It took you a week to convince me that it was all right for me to move to the back of the bus once it was just us and the driver.

You were a bit of the firefly, you liked the attention. You liked having someone to talk to.

You made me laugh.

I had girls in my life. Neighbors, cousins, girlfriends at school. I'd had crushes. But you were the first guy to ever hold a conversation with me without your mother forcing the relationship.

Did I mention you made me laugh, Paul?

You used to use your hands to tell the stories. I never saw so much happy personality tied up in so much testosterone before.

I wrote about you in my diary. Then I destroyed the pages because I had no privacy back then. But I didn't forget your name.

One day, in the spring, someone had really gotten to me. I couldn't face you, because I was crying. Huddled behind that chain-smoking bus driver, staring doggedly out a window that only opened from on top, and pretending not to notice that my cheeks were chapped. And wet.

You tapped me on the shoulder, and I still couldn't face you.

You'd moved. To the front of the bus. For me. And it only made things worse.

You said "Come on, now".

You said "What's wrong?"

You sat behind me. Until it was time for you to get off.

The next morning, you got on. You took my hand and led me to the back of the bus. You sat me against the window and took the aisle. And as the stops piled up, and disbelieving kids punched your shoulder, and you didn't move from my side until we got to school.

Then you silently exited, melding into your crowd.

So for a few weeks until school ended, I sat at the back. Everyday. With you.

No one said a word. That was a lot of power you had in the Darwinian ooze of adolescent political structure.

Why were you so kind? I wonder if you even remember it. Or if it was just a blurry moment out of your life, just something you did from some decent impulse. I guess it doesn't matter anymore but at the time, it mattered a lot. It was a domino that got knocked in the right direction, and my life was better for it.

The last day of school, you squeezed my hand and didn't look back. You said goodbye to the driver. I never knew what happened to you. I always kind of wondered.

Dear Paul Mahoney,

You were the only good thing that ever happened to me on a bus.

I hope you're having a splendid life.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That knocked my breath out it was so lovely.

Thanks for making my morning, babe.

//Helen, V.P. of MAS

3:39:42 AM

Anonymous said...

That was equisitely beautiful. It moved me very much. Thanks for writing about it. That must have been a terribly painful time and Paul is my hero now, too.

It also made me recall a time when I did something similar, in 2d grade, for a new kid who moved in down the street from me. Andrew was in my year at school and he was gawky and being teased a lot. So I threatened to beat up his whole class one day while the class was waiting to be let into the classroom. At the time they believed I could do it and they left Andrew alone. I had forgotten all about that until your story reminded me.


5:54:14 AM

Sexy Soccamom said...

That was beautiful and I am literally crying. I dearly hope Paul sees this and although I've no doubt that he was aware that he did you a kindness back then, sometimes people don't realize how deeply they have touched someone. Heck, not everyone even gets the chance or takes the chance to do such a lasting kindness.
Paul, you are a hero in my book too.

6:48:08 AM

Elizabeth said...

Thank y'all for seeing Paul the way I do. I just pray he kept his easy way in the world and big heart and went on to great things...

8:10:13 AM

Elizabeth said...

RP -

I think, wherever he is, Andrew probably feels the same way about you that I do about Paul.

Thank you.

8:17:43 AM

Michele said...

You made me cry!

Paul Mahoeny we love you!!

8:38:51 AM

Jim said...

Wow. I wish I was Paul Mahoney just so I could do that for somebody.

What a wonderful story, Elizabeth. :-)

10:59:56 AM

NotDonnaReed said...

That is a great story, beautifully told. You should submit it to a magazine.

11:12:37 AM

Frumdad said...

Well, it seems that Paul is doing pretty well for himself, in a karmicly appropriate turn.

Turns out he's a law professor, an account manager, a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, and a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. And that's only the first bunch of hits.

Huzzah, Paul!

12:08:00 PM

Anonymous said...

Lovely post that brought a tear to my eye. I also hope that life has treated Paul Mahoney as well as he treated you.

4:49:39 PM

Kym said...

Great post!!!

10:11:14 PM
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Tagged: School, Bully, Memory, Decency, Kindness, Story Corporate, Mommy, Life


Nice one Paul, nice name too!

Posted by: Paul Mahoney on February 20, 2005 04:55 PM