There is a strange man sitting at a small, round table diagonally across from mine who is currently very frustrated with something on his wrinkled piece of graphing paper. From this angle, I can see only a few poorly drawn cubes amidst a world of eraser smears.
He is slightly older, salt and pepper hair, very faded Rangers shirt, sporting the jeans with tennis shoes… Not in the “I’m still young enough to pull this off because these are designer jeans and Nike tennis shoes” way, but more in the “I’m not aware at how unattractive this look is because I’m blinded by the stark whiteness of my new New Balances” way. No judgment here. Just an observation.
He is mumbling about some numbers. Furiously erasing. Then mumbling again. On any other day I might be bothered by this. But today I am thankful for his mumbles. They lessen the tension of this moment.
Let me back up.
A few minutes ago he struck up an extremely awkward conversation with me about what I am working on. I didn’t want to tell him I was writing. The question to follow would have been, “writing what?” and of course my answer at the time was “I have no idea.”
Little did he know, he was soon to be the subject.
So the conversation proceeded as follows:
Him: “What do you do?”
Me: (flattered that he at least pretended like I look old enough to be out of school) “I’m a student actually. But I’m in Tyler for the summer working at a summer camp.”
Him:”Oh Pine Cove. I’m actually heading there this year for the big Watermark church singles retreat.”
Me: “Yeah I think I’ve heard some people in the office talk about preparing for that.”
Him: “Yeah I actually went a few years ago and really enjoyed it. So I’m going back for round two.” Awkward laugh.
Me: “uhh well good for you!”
And I return to my laptop and grilled chicken salad as my final words settle firmly into their place in the universe, circling our heads like a constant, lingering echo, cementing themselves into the perpetual history of this moment in time and space forever.
And the only promise of freedom from this terribly unfortunate exchange, the only thing attempting to drown out the pressing repetition of my final words to this man, is now his strange muttering of numbers to himself.
So I am not bothered by it in the least.
Instead I am thankful. And praying for the first time in my life that some annoying group of hyper middle school boys or a woman with colicky quintuplets will come to Starbucks. Or maybe German tourists.
Anything to push me further and further away from the conversation this man and I just had.
I could have handled it better. I could have been more engaging. I could have tried to talk to him about Jesus. But I was so taken aback by how casually he offered the information that he would soon be attending his second singles retreat, I panicked. And I pray that my face didn’t give away any inclination of how uncomfortable I was…but I don’t know. The odds are against me.
Anyway, that was the start to my night off. I am now going to read and journal and maybe even write a blog with actual meaning, but I just felt the strong urgency to share this event with others.
Hope your opinion of me has not changed.