>Pulling out my notebook, I settled in for a non-invasive lunch of breakfast. Mamma Lena knows how I like my coffee. She knows how I like my french toast. (Lightly buttered with a load of powdered sugar.) As I began retracing my doodles from the meeting earlier, I must have let my mind wander a bit. A surprising little tear formed in my eye as my hand moved across the page. Mamma Lena knew to leave me alone with my thoughts when I was busy retracing the tiny stars on the sheet of paper.

The brilliant chrome in my minds eye quickly took me back to an argument with the ex. Or rather, it took me back to my consolation. Sitting in the newly renovated 50s-style dining room, I had unabashedly let the tears stream down my face. The memory of the argument topic fails me, but the kind words of the stranger will never. I’d exhausted myself with tears on top of a seasonal sinus infection when my breathing became irregular. My water glass was empty and my glare had just settled on the woman seated across the table. She quickly shot me a “stop with the drama” look when an elderly woman approached our table.

“I couldn’t help but overhear.” the older woman gently said to me. As she leaned down, my first thought was that she might plant one on me right there. Her face had softened as she came closer. The kind stranger put her arm around me as best she could given my seating position and softly whispered, “This too shall pass”. Knowing then what I know now, I would have responded without tears. I would have responded without sarcasm. I would have simply walked out of the diner and away from the mess that I’d created of my life when I stepped onto the train leaving for Fort Collins. She knew what I now know. She knew that not all is what it seems to be. The older woman patted my shoulder before walking back to her seat. She knew that I needed the kind words of another to keep moving. Not only in the right direction but to keep moving at all.

Somewhere in Michigan is a gentle woman with the balls to lend unsolicited advice to young women in diners.

The memory was fresh on my mind when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Mamma Lena had a phone cradled on her shoulder, two plates of food on each arm and was ready to drop my plate on the table. Her nudge brought me back to reality as quickly as I’d fallen into the memory of the stranger’s kindness.

“Thanks,” I muttered as I quickly jerked my mind back into reality. Moving the plate away from my notebook, I jotted “Tuesday – Lunch anywhere but MLC.”

Upon returning to work, it seemed that everyone had forgotten my little steak and egg episode. Except maybe the vegan next door.

“So how was the steak and egg?” Nathan asked with a smirk on his baby yuppie face.

“Not too shabby, actually.”

“Don’t want to throw up or anything then, I guess?”

Damn, I want to slap that little smirk off his face.

Keep walking, I tell myself. Just keep walking.

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