“Hey!” Jin nudged his friend, Claus, as the train took off, heading for Korea Town. “That was a movie being filmed, right?”
Claus looked up from his phone. “What?”
“Didn’t you see that lady in the long dress?” Jon persisted. “That giant crane with a camera? The boom hanging from a pole?” He tapped his friend’s elbow. “No wonder you’re always confused! You don’t pay attention!”
Claus’ round face looked concerned for a moment, but quickly lost any expression at all. He returned to the game on his phone. “I’m confused because you’re always interrupting me at the most inopportune times!”
Since he was six foot two inches tall, Jin looked over the heads of the other passengers. None of them seemed too concerned with the film-making at the platform. Jin shook his head, discouraged.
An eighteen year old college freshman, Jin sought out hope in the world still. No one seemed too interested in convincing him that there was such a thing as hope; or even steering him where it might possibly lay. He attended Los Angeles City college sporadically with his friends who, like him, could take it or leave it.
“What are you doing after you leave the train?” Claus asked him.
Jin was surprised to hear Claus’ voice: he seemed too caught up in the digital war he was waging on his phone. The tunnel had thwarted reception and Claus was actually trying to engage Jin in conversation; it made him smile.
“I guess going home,” Jin answered.
“You guess?” Claus was starting to laugh, and he would have if Jin’s face hadn’t turned to stone.
Claus could tell by Jin’s expression that he saw something- a big something - over his shoulder.
“What is it? A robbery?”
Jin’s face was ashen, but he shook his head.
“It’s Yoda, dude! Reading a newspaper.”
“Shut your face!” Claus whispered loudly, and then looked over his shoulder to see a tall man, reading a newspaper, seated comfortably in the bench by the sliding doors. He looked back at Jin, who was unable to stop staring- a pathetic look on his face. Claus looked back again. “That’s yoda? Are you sure?”
Jin nodded, star struck.
For a moment, Jin wondered if the seated man would actually talk to him. Would he be one of the snooty Hollywood elite who refused to sign autographs or talk to his fans? There was only one way to find out.
“I’m going to say hi,” Jin bravely told Claus.
Claus grabbed his friends’ elbow. “Don’t make a fool of yourself, dude!”
“Chill. I won’t.”
He carefully squeezed his way through and around passengers, who were gripping the rail above them to steady themselves. Most of the people looked intelligent enough, why could they not recognize greatness in their midst?
“Hi, Frank,” Jin said, extending his hand to the man behind the newspaper. The man looked up at the sound of his name and into the eyes of Jin.
“Do I know you?” He held his newspaper calmly in both hands, even after noticing Jin’s extended palm.
Jin leaned closer, as if he meant to speak discreetly. “I’m a big fan of yours,” he whispered. “I think you’re amazing.”
At the sound of praise, Frank Oz put his newspaper down and shook Jin’s hand. “Thank you for coming over. I’m glad you appreciate my work.” The other passengers didn’t seem to notice the exchange.
“Do you have any advice for me?" Jin asked boldly. "Any words of hope?”
Frank stared back at the young man, a handsome fellow who seemed to have a lot going for him. What should he say? “Well, like what?”
Jin smiled, trying to hide his immense admiration for the person of yoda. Mr. Oz was his voice, but he also made the character come to life. He had to have some secret of life worth imparting. “I don’t know. What would Yoda tell me?”
“Oh,” Oz smiled broadly. “This is about Yoda!”
“Maybe…” Jin started to feel silly. Was it about Yoda? Maybe it was about listening to an unlikely hero that had survived so many things. Who lived humbly, but was so spiritually powerful. Maybe it was about Yoda, maybe it was about hope.
“Hey,” Frank said, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s Lucas, not me. I read what’s in the script. And I just read it like Yoda would read it. That stuff doesn’t come from my head.” When he saw Jin’s wounded expression, Frank sighed. He re-positioned the newspaper in order to draw a barrier between himself and the needy young man. “You know, it’s just Yoda. He’s not the Dali Lama. He’s not Moses or Jesus Christ, after all.”
“I know,” Jin stood up straighter. “But he is the Grand Jedi Master; the oldest and most powerful in the Star Wars universe.”
Frank raised his eyebrows and nodded.
“Look, I know he’s not real. I’m just saying if he were, what would he say to me?”
Frank shook his head in a way that implied he was finished talking. “I can’t say.”
Jin nodded. “Okay, well. Thanks anyway.” He wondered why Frank would be so stingy with sharing the hope behind Yoda; why he would be so stingy with his own advice…
After an awkward moment of watching Frank reading his paper, Jin worked his way back to Claus, who had been watching the whole thing.
It was five o’clock. It was a time when the commuters were wearing the expressions of panicked rats trying to find a morsel of food on a stinky sinking ship. He wondered if the same life was in store for him. After college, after studying, after day after day on the train watching Claus play the same games…would it be the same for him?
Where was the magic of Yoda? Where was the wisdom he sought under ever rock and behind each curtain?
“What did he say?” Claus asked, once Jin was at his side.
Jin shrugged. “Nothing much really. Nothing much at all.”
“Well, what did you say to him?”
“I asked him for hope. For advice.”
Claus felt terrible suddenly. He saw that Jin had been wounded, deeply. He resisted the urge to put his arm around him, if only to offer him consolation. “Don’t worry about it, man,” he said, flatly.
“He’s not really Yoda.”
“No, he’s not.”
Five o’clock. It was, perhaps, the saddest time in the whole wide world. It was the time that lacked hope more than any other hour of the day.