She said “I knew your grandfather, man” and gave me a subtle smile.
I looked into her eyes and saw despair drowned out by a hint of happiness endowed in survival. It was 9:00 pm on January 16th, and she slowly walked through the revolving door, her walker holding her behind. She walked through the restaurant doors searching for something to grab a hold of, and I waited there to tell her it is not here. She looked at me with her cold, beady eyes, and she told me “Under all these clothes, I knew how to dress back in my day. Heck, I probably knew your grandfather, man.” Her countless smiles throughout our brief conversation melted my heart into oblivion. My heart was now in the good care of the world’s most helpful hands, but it did not matter. I had to kick her out of the restaurant before any customers were bothered.
I continued to talk to her a bit longer, but I began to sense the staring eyes burning around us. We were just two people sharing a conversation, and nobody in the restaurant understood that. To them, she was a crazy, homeless lady looking to steal their precious food and luxuries, but her raggedy clothes compared to that of the corporate sell outs in the restaurant did not matter to me.
We continued to talk about her golden days, but I could see through her façade. She was scared and alone. After a couple of minutes, I realized I had no choice but to escort her out.
As I helped her out through the handicap door, I stood outside with her, hearing her ‘back in the day’ stories and comforting her. I placed my hand on her shoulder as she glowed with reminiciance. Chicago’s ruthless wind chills crashed against my body swaying me back to reality. The customers who were done enjoying their dinner began to exit through the revolving doors. They stared at me standing outside in the frigid cold with this woman. One gentlemen offered her his left overs, but his polite gesture could not mask the arrogance suppressed behind his ignorance.
Finally, I told her I had to get back inside and work. She looked at me and told me “God bless you child, Jesus loves you, and tell him you love him every night.” I stood outside for a couple more minutes as she slowly walked away. She crossed the street in a helpless elegance. Her soul prompted her forward, while her grief propelled her backwards.
I walked back inside of the restaurant and could not stop thinking of her. Her vulnerability cloaked in happiness prompted me to search deep in my internal labyrinth and ask myself why she was so happy.
There are some questions we can never answer with facts. There are some things we can never answer at all. The inexplicable is what makes the labyrinth in which all humans reside bearable. It is what keeps us sane, and what helps the insane return to harmony.
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