The strangers around me.
I had a little more than an hour this afternoon before I needed to be home to get the girls. I was feeling tired and decided a cup of coffee was in order. I pulled into the parking lot at Starbucks and parked. As I got out of my car and shut the door, I naturally peered into the car beside me and jumped back. There was a man, probably around my age and a bit scrufty looking reclined all the way back in the front seat, asleep. All around him were piles of stuff. Clothes and …. I don’t know … just stuff. I was a bit shaken, honestly.
Here I was, going for a coffee to help myself relax a bit after shopping for the past hour and there was this guy, in the very same make & model car that I drive…asleep. I startled him when I shut the door, and felt badly. The few steps it was from my car to the entrance I debated with every step, Should I get coffee? I feel guilty for getting a coffee. Should I get him one? Should I just go home? This is so awkward and uncomfortable. Why is this awkward and uncomfortable?
I got settled into a comfy chair by the window. The same one where I met Mr. Saturday. This time, I was gazing out the window at our cars, side my side. I couldn’t see him because he was reclined all the way back, but I knew he was there. I wondered how he got there exactly. Asleep in his car. And the thing that weighed so heavily on me, was that I really felt like he might be living in it.
After about 20 minutes of sitting in the warm sun and going back & forth between my growing list of things to do, my thoughts for this man and the fact that I scalded my tongue on too-hot coffee, I headed across the street for groceries. Probably only 1000 feet or so.
As I approached the entrance, I noticed a man exiting the liquor store next door. He looked grouchy and carried a brown bag. Once inside the grocery, I noticed him there as well, storming through the aisles. He grumbled at me because he had to slow down as I passed the end of an aisle, however I later found him behind me in line at the checkout. He loaded up the belt with at least 3 big cases of beer and one loaf of fresh bakery bread. I grabbed my bagged up groceries and glanced up as he spoke aggresively and rude to the checkout girl. He spoke to her in single Spanish words. He wasn’t even making sense. He wasn’t Spanish. And sadly, neither was she.
All I did was go for coffee and pick up a few groceries. And there was no hiding from the fact that people within 5 feet of me – are hurting deeply. I felt it.
Not long ago at the mall, Brian and I both stood in silence as we watched a woman buy shoes for her child and divide up the bill between 2 credit cards. All the while the husband sat nearby with an empty look on his face and he stared at his child, then at his wife and then just away as she pulled out the other card. They both looked real nice, and the little one sure was a cutie. But I wondered what the reality of the situation was. Brian looked at me and whispered, “Remember?” All I could do was nod my head and hold my breath so the tears did not well up in my eyes.
As I left Starbucks, I thought, Man, I bitch a lot about not having enough closet space. This guy appears to have … his car. And while I share a full size bed with my husband, we could go out tomorrow and buy a new one if we really wanted to. This guy is kicked back in a Honda Accord. I have 6 pillows. He has his forearm.
And then I left Publix thinking about this man who was obviously annoyed with the world around him. This man who was making great attempts to forget it and engage strictly with himself. I wondered when was the last time a child made him laugh or smile, and I felt thankful for my daily doses of hugs & kisses and books thrown upon me waiting to be read. Of two girls who want to sit on each side of me just to be with me. I wondered if anyone would be waiting for him at home tonight, just wanting to be there with him.
As for the Stride Rite mama. I’ve been there. Regret runs deep inside of me and there are times that holding up the dam that keeps it away is just not even possible. Sometimes it only occurs for a moment, and others, well, other times it can be longer. One thing I’m great at is beating myself up. But when its run its course I continue on, I do so reinspired as to why I’m here and knowing full well that were it not for those days, these days would look differently too.