She Was Glorious

She came into the coffee shop around 8:30pm.

I think she was about 70 years old.

She had put in effort to look nice,

with a beret, cocked off to the side.

 

She was looking for dinner but

this was not really a place to do that but

she didn’t know.

She struggled to understand her choices

and asked questions about what sauces might be available.

 

I understood her disorientation and embarrassment

and grasping for anything to help her figure out

which way was up and which down

and where the ground was and

how to appear competent.

 

I remember moving to the big city,

a rural, working class kid feeling small and panicked,

intimidated and uninitiated, ashamed

in the bourgy, cosmopolitan coffee shops

trying to figure out how to order “coffee.”

 

The barista was cold and impatient and

entirely lacking compassion,

unable to sense the woman’s feelings and needs,

unable to put her at ease and simply

feed her.

She didn’t understand.

 

I understood this woman.

I know the kind of stale

museum-of-her-whole-lifetime

apartment that she lives in,

which nobody visits.

I know the suffocating stillness and changelessness.

I know the fucking miracle of courage and defiance she mustered

to determine to go out into the world,

to put herself together

and look nice and

put on her beret at a snappy and stylish angle

and walk out

into a public space in a city and a world

that she once knew so well,

which she had spent a lifetime nourishing,

which used to have smiling, familiar faces and conversations, and

warmth and it was home

but now it has moved on and she is lost,

just trying to figure out how things work

as she walks into a cafe

seeking plain food that she understands

and this barista

is incapable of helping her feel the ground under her feet,

a simple, human connection in her face,

and just get her some food that she would like to eat.

 

Ma’am, I don’t know your life.

Your life is not my life.

But I know something of your sadness and

I LOVE you and

I am here in your world with you!

 

We know the feeling

of quiet, understanding acceptance

of hopes snuffed.

We know the feeling

of quiet, understanding acceptance

of all the calloused hearts.

And we know that the barista is lonely and anxious too.

And we have compassion for us all.

And the tender, sweetsad love

that took anger’s place years ago

when it burned itself out.

 

Why,

knowing we all struggle with loneliness

and self-love,

do we not embrace each other?

Why

do we distract ourselves from tragedy

instead of helping,

or even add more misery,

to an already too-mean world?

Why

are basic love and connection,

the most human of all things,

so scarce and guarded?

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