Monday, November 17, 2014

Two Windows Away

It is cold outside and the wind is blowing just enough so that the remains of yesterday's 3 inch snowfall was swirling around the parking lot.  As I walked toward my car I watched it dance around my feet and wondered why I was wearing canvas tennis shoes today.  Probably not the best defense against winters first real blast of the season.  The car beside mine was parked a little too closely for my comfort but I slid in between them and managed to get inside and close the door without touching the other vehicle with mine.  As I started the Mustang up I glanced to my left and saw her sitting three feet and two windows away.  Our eyes immediately locked and as they did my brain froze in place.  You know how it works.  When you catch the eye of a stranger the first instinct is to glance quickly away.  Perhaps you nod slightly first, simply to affirm that you wish them a nice day.  I did neither.  At first I was incapable of doing so.  She was African American and no it does not matter.  She could have been Eskimo, Portuguese, or anything else.  It didn't come into play.  What did matter was that she looked thoroughly, completely, and indisputably sad.  Her facial features squealed on her without remorse.  There was a look of defeat in her eyes that seemed to say, "I give up."  Maybe five seconds passed.  Maybe ten.  I really do not know.  Neither of us made any move to look away.  The encounter was long enough that I had time to begin realize that it was unusual.  My right hand was on auto-pilot and it went to the center console and shifted the car into reverse.  At that moment, without thinking about it or in any way putting conscious effort into it, I did what I just naturally do.  I smiled.  And then I realized I was smiling.

Her eyes were still locked in position.  Fifteen seconds?  Twenty?

I took my foot from the brake and began slowly inching backward.  As the left windshield frame finally interrupted this odd moment only one thing was left in my head.  Her expression never changed.  The destitute, broken face before me left my life as destitute and broken as it had entered.  I actually felt pain.  Was it her pain?  I felt frustration.  Was it her frustration?  A brief glance on a wind blown morning is not adequate to reveal the contents of a human soul.  And I acknowledge that I do not know where her sadness originates.  And I will never know.

I wanted to get out of my car and walk to her window.  I wanted to tell her that the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ ultimately makes her misery inconsequential.  I wanted to tell her that the source of her despair could be overcome by a love that moves faster than light and fills up the most light-sucking black hole that outer space has to offer.  But I knew what would happen.  My out-of-the-car presence would simply scare her.  She might use her cell phone to call the police.  Her husband might walk out of the store and think I was accosting his wife.  Bad things would happen if I approached her.

Or maybe not.  Maybe she would lower her window and ask me what I had to smile about.  Maybe I could tell her about the hope that I have.  Maybe I could say something or shine light into her life that would get her through her day.  Or even through her eternity.

I will never know.  I drove away, praying for the person behind those empty eyes.


The Dashboard Poet said...

Wow. Welcome to my world. The "clients" I see every day often wear that look. It is as the thousand yard stare of a combat veteran. Or the face of Jarius upon learning of his daughter's death. We encounter these dear ones all the time...and sometimes, unwillingly, we join their ranks. It is the human condition, outside of faith.