I’ve has some weird-ass days lately. Nerves jangled. Going in circles. One day my brain couldn’t calibrate with the physical clock. I mean, my 9:30 call clocked into my brain as 10am. And my 11:15 call clocked in as 11:30. Fortunately, I was saved. Both people called me.
The one that takes the peach, tho, was when I hopped back in my car for Natural Grocers. To arrive exactly at 6pm, the designated (and most inconvenient) time for a $2 discount on my fav bacon. (I’m going ’cause my husband likes bacon.) When I arrive, I discover I’m a day early.
In front of the store a scruffy guy glances my way as he passes. He turns, cocks his head to the side just a tad, lifts & cups his hands softly, close to his chest. So non-invasive, his barely inaudible ‘Change?’ barely registers on me. I look down as I dig in my purse. I carry a small wad of bills for asks, pull out what my heart feels. I know a tiny sigh bordering a tiny huff escapes my lips. I hand him a dollar with the words ‘Take care of yourself.
It’s then I truly see the abscess in his lower eye, how it follows a line like a bulging vein partway down his cheek. I repeat the useless words as he walks away.
A few steps toward my car, I turn and watch him. His legs were like two straight sticks. Little flesh covering them. So skinny. His clothes & backpack so dirty. His dreads in disarray. And that eye. What was I thinking. . .or rather, not thinking! My God, I said ‘Take care of yourself.’
He turned the corner and I got in my car, backed out. As I creep along waiting for cars in front of me to do their thing, I think of my vow I’d buy food for anyone who says they’re hungry. He hadn’t said that, and still, I know there’s something else I need to give. He’s coming back by the front of the store as I park.
‘Excuse me. Are you trying to buy food. Maybe this will help a little more.’ Standing face to face, I notice the gap in his mouth where four front teeth used to be, and how bad his eye really is. And how much I want to look into that face, and into those eyes, and how easy it is.
I notice how young his voice sounds. And he doesn’t look old, or young. And I know I don’t need to know his story, and when I hand him only 2 more dollars, I know it’s right.
He peers at the money, like he can’t see well. ‘I think I almost have enough,’ he says & smiles wide. I tell him there’s reasonably priced turkey inside….I’m always thinking hungry people need protein. He’s a vegetarian, he says, and wants to get a veggie pizza. I learn he has a wife. That he likes mushroom & green chile pizza best. Filling bread, cheese protein, I think. ‘Pizza can carry you a long way,’ I say.
When I get home, I remember how I wrestled going out again, thinking how silly it was to save $5, even if the store was close. Then thinking I should go, it’s for my husband. And in the end, it wasn’t about me or my husband. It was about that guy, and me. I like to think it was about someone who looks into his face and doesn’t look away, and speaks more than a sentence to him. I like to think it was about a moment of deep presence with another person. I have God Bumps as I type this. The Universe says Yes.
~ Joy Harjo (from “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies”)
What’s an unexpected moment you’ve had with a stranger? Share in the comments below.
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