>Eye Contact

>Last night was unexpected. I had an hour and a half of time. Just myself. No agenda. No kids. I decided to take myself on a mini-date while I waited for Nate’s soccer practice to end. Choosing to avoid the griminess of downtown where we were, I found myself driving over the bridge to that magical little island, Coronado, and followed my feet into Starbucks. A cinnamon-sprinkled caramel macchiato and a good book sounded scrumptious in every way. But it didn’t happen.

I make eye contact with people in public. I say hello to checkers and baristas and exchange the usual niceties, but always try to make eye contact while doing so. A small action to affirm that person’s dignity. I placed my order then zoned in on the leather chair that was going to coddle me for the next hour of my “me time”. But I made eye contact.

Innocent enough at first. A lady asking me if I lived here, talking about how she’s from Chicago. When she commented that Coronado seemed like a reasonably, financially accessible place to live the red flag went up. Two minutes more it was confirmed that she was completely off her rocker, possibly on drugs, but most definitely off meds. At first glance she didn’t look homeless, but upon further review there it was: a rolling suitcase of all her possessions and dirty fingernails. She had years of hurt and hardness beating her metaphorically and physically.

It was uncomfy sitting there. Part of me wanted to hear how she went from being a healthy, intelligent woman with a job and a home and a car and a family to this homeless, crazy, on-drugs, off-meds person she is today. And the other part of me just wanted to snuggle further into my chair and read my Nook. So I sat there and listened and found myself sitting there nodding with a dumbfounded expression on my face and nothing to say, looking frantically across the table for the guy to get me out of this, jingling my keys in my hand, the universally understood social gesture of needing to leave. But I had made eye contact…

I did eventually make it to the car 45 minutes and a few rambles later. As I drove in search of a new dry, warm place to read I wondered what exactly a homeless woman was doing in a Starbucks in Coronado of all places. The reason, I decided, wasn’t all that different from why I was there. To escape the griminess of downtown, to sit in a cozy chair in a warm place, to find a little beauty in the evening, and to continue a story.

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