Connection

ClubI looked up over the edge of my reading glasses at the gentleman sitting one seat over from me at the coffee bar of Busboys and Poets. He had asked me why I was reading my book and I had absentmindedly answered him, trying to ignore his attempts at conversation. His reaction to my response had my full attention. He smiled at me and repeated his words.

–I was expecting a story. I thought to myself, here must be an exceptional tale. I thought, this girl has seen evil.

His skin was charcoal with dark eyes to match. He had spoken softly and with care, his words sounded like they weren’t used to English. He gave me a closed lip smile. Patient. Waiting. He smiled gently. He was gentle. His movement, his gaze, his attitude. He seemed at peace with himself and who he was.

–Hm. Are you sure that isn’t projection?

He chuckled, rubbing a hand on his bald head, thinking on how to reply.

–I guess we could all say we’ve seen things. I just still can’t get over it. Why that book?

Sighing, I glanced down at the page number before shutting the book and placing it face down on the counter.

–Well, from what I can tell, this book is about communication and perception. When we speak to people we assume they are on the same level as us. Same degree of verbal capacity or comprehension. That we are all playing by the same rules. Yet, that’s not really the case or at least not always the case. Some people talk and mock communication as they have no sincere desire to express themselves. They talk and talk but unlike most, it’s to fill an inner void, validating a state of mind or way of being; instead of reaching out across the void. They don’t want you to receive the information, process it, and reply. They would rather be self isolating. I do not believe this to be a bad thing. It’s just something that is and this book explores the perception of that specific barrier between people.

He sat. His dark eyes staring at his half empty glass of orange juice. The condensation had soaked it creating a little moat between the edge of the glass and the napkin in rested on. He was lost in thought to the point where I wondered if I shouldn’t have said anything. People either hear what they want to hear or what they fear to be true.

–Why, Holy. Miss. Do you really think that? I was right you have seen things.

I pulled my glasses off my nose and tossed them onto my book. Picking up my cup of tea, I settled back into the bar stool.

–I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve seen things, but those are my thoughts. I’d like to think I meet people where they are.  Communication is complicated so I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

He chuckled.

–Miss, I think it was Fate we met today. You gave me the answer to a question I’d been praying on for a long time.

He turned his glass ninety degrees in his fingers. Lift. Turn. Place. Lift. Turn. Place. Lift. Turn. Place. He looked up at me. Eyes unwavering.

–I’m a negotiator. I guess you could say, I’ve been known to build bridges. I am good at it. Take two people, two groups, two forces, and close the distance between them. Mend hurt. Build something new. It was never anything I had to try at. I just happened into it and I was good. This was my skill. This was my gift. But then.

He broke eye contact and sighed. Looking at the cup in his hand.

–Miss, my boss has been wanting me to get a person on board and no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do or say nothing happens. Then my boss comes down on me for it. Hard. It is making me question myself. Doubt myself. And you look like a person who knows what doubt can do to a person. So I’ve been praying on it. ‘God. Do not take this from me. This was my gift and I know you can give’th and take’th away; but not this. Not this.’

He leaned his back over the edge of the chair stretching his throat towards the ceiling.  He took a deep breath and wiped at his eyes. He looked down at the glass again.

–I never once thought it was not me. I thought this was all within my control. I believe, grace of God, I can do anything with His Will. I never thought it could be someone else. That this is not about me. That this is about them and letting them be. Not my need. Not my boss’s need. It’s them. All them.

–Perhaps your boss is coming down on you so hard because they have already tried with this person. Perhaps you are the last resort and what does that mean if you are? What happens to them?

He looked up at me, his brow turned down with concern. I sighed.

–Whatever happens is not on you. It’s not your responsibility. We all make our own bed to sleep in. Some people need the fire. They need to burn for validation. To know that they exist and that they are who they are.

He snorted and shook his head at me.

–Like I said, Miss. Meeting you is Fate.

I laughed, rubbing the back of my neck unsure as to what to think on the idea.

–Miss, you have given me new ground to stand on.

I raise my eyebrows.

–Oh, really?

–Yes, Miss. New ground to build bridges with.

Searching

Red HeartA gift is found one of two ways. The first is found through careful thought. The other is found by chance in a damn-how-could-I-completely-forget-that-I-needed-to-get-a-gift panic. The horrid feeling of trying to find something that will not be seen as an after thought since it is not an after thought. It is a later thought.

So I am wandering through Krammerbooks & Afterwords Cafe at Dupont Circle in search of a later thought gift. It was for Father’s Day. I already had a card and everything. I just didn’t plan for my knitting project to not be done in time. A planned gift that became a later thought one. I was irritated with myself. I needed to find something good, quickly. I had a plane to catch.

Krammerbooks never lets me down. It may not always have what I want, but the place can be depended on to have what I need. I scanned the shelves with laser precision. It was only a matter of time ‘till I found it. I came across a biography on Thomas Jefferson. I paused a moment. The title was familiar to me. A coworker had been reading it earlier in the year. That’s when I knew; this was it. My coworker had excellent taste in nonfiction, and who doesn’t love a good-old-fashioned American President?

I went as quickly as I could to one of the checkout lines. It was a little more difficult than it should have been. I was lugging a carry-on over my shoulder and I didn’t want to take down any of the numerous stacks of books.

As I stood in line, I hummed to myself thrilled with my find. I looked down fondly at the cover thinking sweet nothings about Thomas Jefferson, repeating the singular thought. I have found a gift. I have found a gift. It’s going to be awesome!

–A fan of Thomas Jefferson?

The comment startled me. I was so absorbed in my happiness I wasn’t paying attention.

–Enough of one, yes.

The man was tall and had a politicians head of hair. You know, the nice kind; the kind that could belong to a Romney or a Kennedy. He had dark eyes and his suit was Mad Men blue. His tie was loose and he was holding book two from A Song of Fire and Ice (aka Game of Thrones).

–It’s a good book. Well written. Not a love letter or anything. It’s just an interesting presentation of facts.

I looked down at the book, I had absolutely no intention of reading.

–Ah, Thank you. I was looking for a book that met that standard.

–You’re welcome.

His smile was inviting in a way that made me think I was in an Orbit gum commercial. You know, his teeth sparkled for a moment. I am not ashamed to admit, he was charming.

–Your book is pretty good too. Decent for Fantasy, trending away from standard plot themes. You just have to be okay with death, and that the series is unfinished.

–I’ll be sure to tell my wife that.

–Yes. Please do.

I turned away. Well, there was really no more point in continuing the conversation. There really wasn’t a need for him to flash his smile the way he did, was it for the thrill of the hunt? I didn’t care to know.

We both had had our standard normal grocery line small talk and it was my turn at the register. I placed the book down grinning with pride at the man behind the counter. I had found my gift, and I was going to go to the good old state of Connecticut and I would see my family and it would be amazing.

I started thumbing through my wallet for my card to make the payment, when I heard the question.

–Would you like to get dinner sometime?

I am not sure exactly what type of look I had on my face, but the cashier’s eyes bulged as he ducked behind the counter, fumbling for a bag that I did not want for my purchase.

I looked over my shoulder unable to accept that this had been asked.

–You’re married!

He shrugged.

–So?

–So, I am not going out with you to dinner.

–Why not?

–Because I am not Mormon!

His jaw dropped. The cashier was chuckling at my comment. He held out the bag in a perfect display for a quick exit. I grabbed the handle and fled on my way back to Connecticut. As I pushed the door open to leave I looked back.

The cashier was shrugging off his chuckle to the man with the devilish smile. I heard him say as the door closed behind me,

–What? It was a good line. Did you find everything you were looking for today?