Numbed by withholding, I watch the world go by. Faint by apathy, I see yet I do not respond. The need to be heard has been beaten down with the pelting of angry stones. The driving passion to be recognized and valued has given way to a tidal wave of control. The hope of love rests upon a shooting star, a force from a distant galaxy.
The mall walkers stride briskly on, stepping quickly around the slow-moving shoppers. Mothers pushing prams and holding tightly to the diminutive hands of toddlers amble from window to window. Employees greet guests with civil resignation. Retired gentlemen, once of great influence, sit quietly in the corner reading the daily paper. They are regular patrons. The barista anticipates their order and serves it promptly. Silent sentries of honor from the past, they are thrust in the present, passing the time in anonymity. They watch the world go by and the world does not see the disheveled clothes, the unkempt hair, the dull glaze of their eyes.
He saunters in, dressed as though he still punches a time clock. His leather portfolio reveals years of faithful use. His eyes are bright; his step is quick. He chooses his table and arranges the chairs. Waiting at the counter for his liquid nourishment, he chats comfortably with the baristers, calling each by name. Personable and polite, ever so eloquent, he inquires of their well-being and their families. Quietly and respectfully, he visits with the regulars, briefly sharing a moment of recognition and acknowledgement. With cup in hand, he returns to his table. The lines on his face, the posture of his body hints at a life of strife and difficulty. His accent gives hint to the possibility of a different homeland.
My coffee grows cold and the magazine in my hands goes unnoticed. This gentleman of advanced years has vibrancy and purpose. All who enter the shop are greeted by him. There is strength in his voice. There is acceptance yet not resignation in his demeanor. His advanced years do not show final years but years of experience and wisdom. He remains engaged in life if not in career. After watching him on my weekly visits, he approaches my table as though approaching royalty. We quietly chat, sharing surprising details in response to probing questions.
He grew up in Egypt amidst the pain of a dysfunctional family and an abusive father. He ran away before he was a teen in desperation to save his life. He learned to survive and to push on using his intellect and natural abilities. He learned to not respond to his emotions. As the years passed, he found himself in America to pursue college degrees. Two or three of his siblings are dotted across our land as well. All have positions and doctorates held by the extremely intelligent. Having retired from a similar position, he now volunteers in the local community as a mediator between opposing cultures and clashing sects. He is aware of the prejudices and fears of the local community, some of which are often directed at him as well. He introduces himself with an americanized name for ease of pronunciation but again, his accent, his mannerisms and his skin color reveal the reality of a different homeland. He was taken aback when I was able to guess a bit about his background just from his name and his way of relating to others. He was shocked at my questions based on curiosity without a trace of condemnation or judgment. He was surprised that I read between the lines and picked up on details without him directly verbalizing them. As we chatted, notable city officials passed through the shop. Again as though he was sitting with royalty, he presented me to each one.
A few weeks passed and more chats pursued. His eagerness and pleasure of sharing time at my table was obvious. As it happens, he asked for my phone number. The numbness by withholding and the apathy were beginning to slowly wear away yet in suspicion and in great unease, I evaded the question. The neediness of a lonely soul seems so overwhelming and bit daunting to entertain. I see, yet I do not respond.
The Lover waits in the shadows of life, almost unseen, waiting to write another chapter in His story of love.