The Blind, The Boy & The Bagel
Bright morning light pours in our bedroom through the sunroof.
Him: Yawns, and sits up a bit. I'm hungry, gonna get a bagel. Want one?
Me: Hmm.. maybe. Brain immediately reverses many years ago, stops at the bagel shop and parks. 2008: college days at Dominican University.
Him: What is it?
Me: I just remembered...I don't even know where to start. I just know I'll never forget her.
I used to work 3-4 jobs in college. I wasn't a trust fund baby like 80% of my class. While most got to lay out on the library lawn, get drunk and enjoy the weekend: I worked. As usual, I'd hop in my noisy white Honda accord, leave campus (when I wasn't working in the admissions office) and drive down towards fourth street (the only real active street in San Rafael - if ya know. Ya know).
I drove and pulled into the closest breakfast spot on the way to the freeway. I stepped out and as usual, I'd look up and see the bright yellow sign which meant: hunger be-gone... aka "House Of Bagels".
Unlike most days that I'd frantically order and run out the door to make it in time to babysit in Mill Valley, I had given myself extra time. Somehow the universe had woken me up a little earlier that morning.
As usual, there was a little line and then it was just the woman in front. I couldn't help but notice how nicely she was dressed. Her clothes were very proper, ironed perfectly and her dirty blond hair was curled so well. I looked down at her shoes and could tell without seeing her face, that she must've been in her 60's. Shoes say so much without talking, don't they?
Counter boy: Ok ma'am, what's it gonna be?
Woman: I'll have a bagel with butter and a small black tea please.
Counter boy: It'll be $4.15
The woman pulls out her pretty purple wallet and I see her hands for the first time. Immediately my mouth silently opens and quickly shuts. She had visibly painful burn scars covering her hands. "God that looks so painful!" I thought.
Woman: Pulls out two folded bills. One $5 bill folded in half and one $10 bill folded in 3 ways. "Excuse me, I'm so sorry but I think I've mixed up my money. Do you mind grabbing the $5 dollar bill?
I could tell by her tone that she was so embarrassed. A second later, she turned back to face me and in that moment my entire heart and everything else in my body fell in a deep, dark abyss. Her face, neck and hands were covered in third degree burns and... as she moved, I noticed her white cane almost tap my shoe.
I stepped back and even though she couldn't see me, her lids were burned shut... she sensed my energy there.
Counter boy: Quickly grabs the $10 dollar bill. "Ok miss, got it, you're all set. Next!"
Me: In-fur-i-ated and burning up inside... "Excuse me... are you serious? "
Counter boy: Rolls his eyes at me and drops the $10 bill on the counter. "Sorry ma'am, grabbed the wrong one." Then, rudely plucks the $5 bill out of her hand.
The Woman: "Oh okay, thank you honey."
Me: Her kindness killed me. How many others have taken advantage of this poor, innocent woman? Sure, I had saved her from losing $5 dollars, but how many other times had this jerk done this to her? How many others have done worse?
After I had paid, I walked to my car and instead of eating on the road, like I usually would back then, I sat there, not wanting to eat. I felt awful, wanting to somehow protect her. I watched her sip her tea and wondered what her life might have been like before this had happened. I wondered what life must've been like not being able to see the world.. and then I thought, maybe she was saved from seeing the hateful wrong in the world. Somehow she was at peace, sitting there in her proper outfit with her purple purse and cute shoes.
I wonder... how much did this woman lose from such a painful and traumatic experience? But also, how much had she gained? I have some idea.. but I'll never really know, will I?
There really is no moral to this story... oh wait. There is:
Don't ever be the counter boy.
Always be the kind woman.
Eat the darn bagel parked and not on the highway.
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