Strangers

Tip of the Iceberg

This blog was born because I had the pleasure of meeting my friend Darnell for lunch today. I was attempting to park, and while I clumsily scraped my rims against the curb, there was a solemn looking man-a security guard there watching me. I got out of the car, looking across the street to see if my friend was there. He was. I saw him standing in a doorway among the sea of people on Sunset Blvd. I mentally acknowledged him and went to get Levi’s stroller out of the trunk. I methodically unfolded the stroller and set it down on the sidewalk. My eyes multiplied with the security guard’s, and he started talking. “Hey, you think if a lady breaks up with a guy after three years there is a chance she will come back?” Most of the time when strangers approach me, they offer some kind of salutation. Not today. This is what made it so special. As if the question was totally normal, I said,“Um, it’s a possibility. I have to know the backstory. Was she already telling you the areas you were falling short in?” I had to ask, because men are notorious for thinking Plymouth Rock landed on them. “No, it was totally out of nowhere. I’ve been with her three years. She was dating another guy at first, then we got together. Now, she is saying she doesn’t want to be with me. She has gone back to the other guy. She wants to give them a chance. I am hurting because I got close to her boy. I was helping her with him.” By this time, I started to understand the guy was really in pain. His mouth began to twitch and his eyes welled up with tears. I don’t know how I didn’t start crying. It was probably because I couldn’t believe he was actually confiding in me. I thought for a few seconds, then replied. I wanted to be honest, yet considerate of the fact he was hurting. Men can be so tender. I looked at him and said, “Leave her alone. She may just need some time, and you know what-since she left you for another guy, there is a chance this woman just isn’t the one.” He let out a “Hmph” of disbelief, then said, “But after three years?” I thought, three years isn’t that long. I have always been in long-term relationships. Over time, I have learned no amount of years is long enough to completely know someone, or to allow something to go on that shouldn’t just because there is history there. If it isn’t working, it isn’t working. Obviously, this woman felt it wasn’t working. I looked across the street. Darnell was searching for us. I called out to him knowing my little voice wouldn’t carry all the way across the street. My new friend turned to see who I was trying to communicate with. I thought he would help me yell, but his eyes trailed over and came right back to mine. “I am hurting so bad and all I can do is stand here for the next 12 hours, holding back my tears.” At this point, I wanted to melt through the concrete. His eyes were wet and drops of sadness started to roll down his face. He pulled out a napkin to dab his cheeks. He knew this meltdown was coming. With Levi in one hand and empathy in the other, I hugged this man I had never seen. He could have been a robber, a thief, a killer-anything (My partner makes me watch the ID channel sometimes and my imagination is already overactive.)-but in that moment, he was my brother, and I felt for him. He thanked me and I told him not to worry. “It’s going to be okay.” I don’t know if I lied or not when I said that. I do know that I’ve been thinking of him all day long. I hope he has friends that can help him get through this loss. I hope he has a relaxing place to go after work. I hope he finds a woman who understands his brand of love.

Nobility at Barnes & Noble

I move slowly. I’ve been meaning to go to Barnes and Noble since last week. A Friday morning ago, I looked out on the balcony and asked Levi where he wanted to go. He answered with a screech, and I said, “Okay, bubba,” as if his response was intelligible. My first thought was the Museum of Natural History. I got the idea from watching PBS a couple days earlier. There was a short commercial on during Dinosaur Train about the fossils there. Levi needs to see those, right?, When I used Google maps to get directions, it said there was an accident on the 101, and it would take 40 minutes. I quickly decided against it. Barnes and Noble popped into my head shortly after. I allowed that idea to bounce around my head while I waited for the water to heat up in the shower. Levi sat and unraveled the toilet paper, and I think the idea rolled right away with each of the squares.
I didn’t get to Barnes and Noble until today. It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday. We will see her tomorrow at a seafood buffet. At 11:30 in the morning. I think that’s way too early for hordes of crab legs and buttery shrimp, but it seems I am in the minority with that opinion. I went to the book store to get her a gift. I haven’t purchased my own mother a birthday gift in years. To me, she has everything, and the money to buy what she wants. As I grow older, the less I believe in gift giving just for occasion’s sake. My mother-in-law always buys me presents for Christmas, and for my own personal holiday, so I decided to get her something as well. While my MIL and I have a pretty standard, formal relationship, there are glimmers of commonality between us that allow shared moments of contemplation. Our discussions about literature make us take our respective masks off, and we are just people then. It follows that I would purchase her books, or book-related items. Enter Barnes and Noble. The closest store is in Burbank, about four miles from our home. I happen to love Burbank, and this particular branch has a wide array of toys for children Levi’s age. It was an easy choice.
I used the stroller because I didn’t know where else I might wander off to. Levi weighs 22 pounds. I almost dropped him today while trying to hold onto our lunch. I wasn’t about to take any chances this trip. You know I love books. If I had to choose whether to hold him or a stack of books, I am not sure who would win. Anyway, after I purchased the gifts, and one half-off book for Levi, I went out a side door that allowed me to get to the car without too much walking. There were stairs. I told Levi to brace himself, and attempted to pull the stroller over the stairs. Levi looked pretty scared. He is usually down for mommy hijinks, but I think the fact he’s teething may be causing him to change up a bit. Luckily for me, a stranger came along. He was a frail, older man and when he walked up to me, I thought, “Oh goodness, how is he going to help.” I was desperate though, since Levi was starting to squeal and wiggle. When he said, “You need help?” I nodded and allowed him to lift the stroller just high enough to get it over the stairs, so Levi’s new teeth didn’t click together and start bleeding. We got to the bottom of the steps. I let out an energetic “THANK YOU!!!” He looked at me like he had never heard those words before, and threw his hand up before skittering away. Another successful stranger interaction in the books.

No Girls Allowed

So, I’ve been meaning to share a couple things with you guys.
First of all, I told my little brothers about this blog, and they think it’s cool, which means it’s cool. They are pretty much my spirit guides. I can’t wait to thank them on a huge stage in front of a roaring crowd of people one day. I don’t know any other people who are as honest with me about my work. My big brother Rohan is up there, but Anthony and Jason just get me. It matters.
Okay. I went into Ross the other day. Tuesday, I think it was. I’ve been in a funk. Marriage is hard sometimes. thought I would go into one of the busiest, unorganized, havens of miscellaneous stuff in order to do some retail therapy and just clear my mind. Crazy places like that are perfect for me, because my mind looks just like your average Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx or Big Lots. The only thing better than that kind of chaos is a shower.
So, I’m in the store and Levi is playing with wind chimes, yelling, and knocking things down. We are having a blast. I get to the section with the rugs and decide I need one. I’m standing there trying to figure out if I want a navy blue one with a white swirly pattern, or a navy blue one with thin, periwinkle stripes when Levi’s babbling gets the attention of an older lady nearby. She sidles up to us and asks how old he is. I tell her. All of a sudden, a storm cloud forms over her head.
“Don’t have a girl. They are trouble.”
I say, “that’s what I keep hearing.” “
It’s true,” she says, shaking her head.
“My son is an attorney, and he is doing well. Has his stuff together. That daughter of mine-“
She lets out a guffaw, and immediately I am sad for her daughter, never having seen her a day in my life. I grab one of the rugs and use my body to tell her I am finished talking. She says a warm, grandmotherly goodbye to Levi, and I go over to the part of the store where there are mounds of hapless toys looking like they know they are the dregs of toy society and will only be bought hastily on the way to a birthday party. I stop to think about what the stranger said.
I am guilty of hating girls up until maybe about five years ago. I stopped hating them because I found some I like. Weird ones with big hair that wear Doc Martens and opaque tights, and lots of bangles and dreadlocks and too much lipstick that eat with their hands and emote with all their limbs. Girls who think like me and love even harder than I do.
I don’t particularly love the little ones. They have lots of attitude, yet cry over every little thing. The older ones I can deal with once I understand them on a personal level. They are hard to be around without breaks though.
I am assuming having a daughter can be hard on a woman for many reasons. You know the things she will fall for, and there is that whole pesky adolescent phase where she may become a dumping ground for boys. Some women are jealous of their daughters and everything they are, prettier, smarter, more daring. I can’t lie, I was overjoyed when I learned Levi was a boy. They are more fun to be around. My sisters are cool, but sooooo dramatic. My brothers like to eat and talk about rap music. They don’t gossip, or wallow in self-pity because they have gained weight.
I know for sure my next child will be a girl. I am looking forward to helping her become a woman whose company I enjoy. If not, I’ll just kick it with her dad.

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