True story about random encounters with strangers.

It was about 11:30, late on Tuesday night a few weeks ago. I was coming home from yet another 3 hours of unintelligible stochastic calculus.

The Fulton Street 4,5,6 train station was quiet this late, allowing the rumble of distant trains, and the warm summer night rain pouring through the grates overhead. That morning, on my way to work, it had been clear-- so I hadn't anticipated walking 10 blocks home in the rain.

I have stopped being wary of walking in deserted streets in Manhattan at night, sometime between when men insisted on walking me home when it was past 10:00 and when I started refusing and walking on my own. (with the pleasant delusion of safety with the attitude that I am dangerous in stilettos and a knee-length skirt so do not, I tell you, do not fuck with me especially coming home from mind-numbingly-difficult sub-martingale night at Courant)

But the rain. It didn't look like it was stopping so I started to walk. You know how the financial district is like at night-- narrow empty winding streets through canyons of illuminated skyscrapers. I was walking slowly with the rain dripping down my back and I didn't mind (dry clean only is usually a lie anyway) when a random stranger asks me, "Would you like my umbrella?"

I analyze him for sketchiness- He's of average height, soccer-player build. Wearing the business-casual uniform of blue oxford french cuffed shirt and khaki pants, expensive belt. Hair that I first assume to be dark blond, from his darker complexion, but later realize it to be an auburn tone of red. He can't be more than 25 years old, and I notice a J.P. Morgan ID tag hanging out of his bag.

Passes the sketch test (ignoring slight physical resemblance to Christian Bale in American Psycho), I accept the umbrella. He holds it over me, receiving the edge-of-umbrella-drip on his right shoulder, then over his laptop bag. He introduces himself. I ask which direction he's going to-- John Street and Gold.

From his southern accent, I start the typical meeting-a-stranger small talk You're not from New York, are you? Then: where did you go to school, I go to Stern, he went to Darden, works in M&A, he's from Texas, he did undergrad at Harvard, I used to row against Harvard, he used to play rugby, I went to Choate, his little brother is starting there in the fall.

We reach Gold street and I start to turn away to walk towards Water and he pauses and tells me,

"My mother would be disappointed in me if she knew I let you walk 3 blocks in the rain."

I have always had confidence in the kindness of strangers.

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