It was the late 80’s and I was working in Milan (Milano to the locals), and was friends with a model who was struggling and barely getting by. She didn’t have two cents to rub together, and was becoming more destitute day by day. One night I bumped into her in the pensione where we lived, but she was inconsolable.
“What’s wrong Laura, why are you crying?” I asked as I saw her in the hall.
“I am doomed!” She cried at the top of her lungs, “I stepped over an angel!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked about such a strange proclamation.
“I was taking a shortcut down through an alley and there was an old man lying there who was weak, he put his hand up begging me for money!” She burst into tears at her next sentence, “But I didn’t stop, I was rushing to get to an audition so I stepped over him!”
“That’s ok, Laura,” I said trying to console her, “You don’t even have a dime to your name!”
“There’s more!” she cried, “I took two steps and turned around! I wanted to give him something, even though it was not a lot- but when I turned around HE HAD DISAPPEARED! There was no way and no place he could have gone….I only took two steps, turned around, and he had disappeared! He was an angel because no human being could have done that and I was being tested by God and I failed! I don’t even go to church and I know that was an angel sent to test me and I stepped over him like a piece of dung and I FAILED!” She burst into tears and collapsed from the sheer recollection, and nothing I could do or say would change her devastation.
Laura was not even remotely religious but the whole thing was obvious to her what had happened; that she had indeed encountered an otherworldly being that was put on her path as some kind of test, and she failed.
A few weeks later I had to work in Munich and I wanted to do laundry, but it was a Sunday and everything was closed. I walked down a very long narrow cobblestone road, where all shops were dark and there were no intersecting streets or alleys, everything was enclosed. I balanced a big heavy bag of laundry on one shoulder as I carried my wallet, and desperately searched for a place to wash my clothes.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man tapped my shoulder.
“Can you spare some change?” He said in the strangest accent.
I felt so vulnerable being alone on an empty cobblestone street with my wallet so visibly seen and replied, “No! How dare you corner me like this!” I noted he had a very kind, beautiful face that had a serene look, not one of destitution.
I stomped away, thinking that the man looked a bit sad. I wondered how he knew I spoke English, when it hit me what had just transpired. Laura was right, they test you when you least expect it. I immediately turned around realizing I had made a stupid mistake, and feeling guilty I had been so rude to anyone that needed some support. To my shock and horror, he had disappeared literally into thin air. There was nowhere this man could of gone, it was an enclosed place with only foot-traffic allowed, everything was locked and there was absolutely nowhere he could of run.
I kept walking down the street at a brisk pace and said in my head up to God, “Okay, you won. I know I messed up. Can you send that angel back to me? Please God? Please?”
No more than a second later I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, there was the man again but this time he smiled, “Have you had a change of heart?”
I was stunned and dropped my laundry bag. “Yes, I’m sorry…but you scared me,” I feebly said. “For all I know you could be an ax murderer,” OH SHUT UP! I said to myself, you can’t talk like that to angels!
“Anything will do,” he said warmly, “I am really hungry.”
I was going to test this angel so I said, “How do I know if I give you money, you won’t run off and buy alcohol or drugs?” Oh JUST SHUT UP! I said again to myself.
The man started laughing and said in this weird accent, “Oh I can assure you I won’t use it for that.” He seemed bemused by the thought.
“So, you say you’re hungry, right?”
The man was amused, “Yes, very.”
“Okay,” I said, “How about I take you to lunch?” I was gonna trap that angel if it was the last thing I did.
The man was not expecting this, “Oh no!” he replied, “That is completely unnecessary!” He was looking a bit scared at just the thought, than he looked me deeply in the eyes and realized I knew exactly what was going on.
I said, “It’s no trouble at all! I insist! I don’t feel comfortable just giving you money.”
The angel squirmed, “Well, I guess it would be all right.” He sighed.
“Let’s take this road to the main street,” I said, “there must be a patisserie around here somewhere.”
I was struggling with my heavy load of laundry when all of a sudden, it felt so light. That’s strange, I thought to myself, it feels weightless all of a sudden. I knew that angel felt bad I was going out of my way, and wondered if perhaps he was trying to help me.
In no time we came to a gleaming shop with cases loaded with every tasty baguette, chocolate croissant, sandwiches, fresh breads, handmade chocolates, homemade cookies and every baked good under the sun, not to mention an array of café drinks that would put Starbucks to shame.
“Please, “I said to the sweet man, “order whatever you want.”
He was kind of confused, like he had no idea what to get and pointed to a tiny finger sandwich and said, “I guess I’ll just have that.”
“Oh no! You said you were starving, that won’t fill you up!” I said.
I pointed to a dozen things to the server behind the case that she plated as we balanced the feast and made our way to a quiet table.
“I wish you wouldn’t have done all this.” He said, “You are very kind.”
I had lived and worked all over the world, and had never heard an accent like his. “Where are you from? I don’t recognize your accent,” I said.
The angel stuttered, “Um…I am from all over the world. I have been everywhere.”
“But where were you raised? I cannot figure out your accent.”
He looked me in the eye, knowing I knew not who he was but what he was, and gently said “No particular place.”
He ate a few bits of food and said, “When I first met you I thought your heart had gone cold. Now I see it has not,” he paused, “I shall be sure to tell my father.”
“Your father?” I asked, “Where does he live?” This angel was so tricky.
“Oh he lives north.”
“You mean…. like the North Pole?” I asked.
“Oh it’s more north than that.” His eyes twinkled.
That angel was so smooth and eventually it was time to leave- and I was despondent I still had no proof.
I had the woman pack a bunch of food and cookies that she wrapped in white boxes with pastel tissue and string, and gave it all to this weird and wonderful man. I wished so badly there could have been some sign, something that let me know for sure my suppositions were for real. I was a little sad, I thought to myself, that this angel was sneakier than me.
He shook my hand as we were ready to part and said reaching inside his tweed jacket, “Here, I want you to have this.”
“Oh no! I don’t want anything, really!” I said.
“This is a gift I want you to have,” he said as he handed me a small wooden angel.
I was awestruck as the man started to laugh.
“If you ever need anything, anything at all, all you have to do is wish on this,” he said.
The man left me as I held the wooden angel, but he was gone so fast I didn’t even see him leave. I felt a thousand bells go off inside my head and knew, without a doubt, that I had dined with an otherworldly being. I felt like I was walking on sunshine as I skipped back down the street, though I never found the Laundromat. I guess, in the end, I had bigger things to clean.