Posted on | January 28, 2016 | No Comments
There are times in life where I get a crazy idea and I don’t feel like keeping it in my head.
This can be seen when I’m waiting for the bus, listening to Pusha T and dancing in a crowd of people pissed off that it’s snowing. This happens in subways when people are reading advertisements and I’m banging my head like crazy to the latest Grimes song. This happens in several non-dancing circumstances that I cannot recall at this moment.
Anyway you’re wondering what this is about.
It’s been awhile. There has to be a reason I’m here.
Yesterday was “Let’s Talk” day and I realized no one really mentions the upside about living outside of social norm. Or having anxiety or whatever the fuck you want to call being honestly human. There’s the chuckling really loudly that may seem socially disruptive but actually feels really good. There’s also the pleasure of having an idea and acting on it before rational thought can get in the way. Because a lot of nice things aren’t done when put under aggressive logical analysis. Your brain is meant to solve problems so if you use it the way it was meant to be used your really never thinking about how insanely capable you are of creating magic. Reason has a habit of stopping magic.
I’m sitting at the bar at a restaurant I go to sometimes. Eating ribs. Most likely getting some on my face.
And I notice this threesome. Two older men, one older woman. And this older woman shines with this intense amusement and energy. Black hair, elven smile, skin aged like pen strokes from a master artist who took the time to write all the jokes she tells in her laugh lines. I find myself stealing glances at her.
She touches her husband’s face, sort of just covering his eyes for a split second to get him to look at her because she still likes having his attention. I’m going to go ahead and guess they have been married for decades. And he startles because he doesn’t want a finger in his eye and looks at her and it’s crazy. Magic. He’s in an exactly the spot he wants to be. I guarantee this guy wakes up in the morning and looks at her and goes to the washroom and high fives his mirror. Like damn we did good. And then probably does a hundred push-ups just because he wants to have more mornings like this. Just because he wants to live forever.
And it hits me in the chest. And the idea occurs. I turn to my waiter and whisper, “Do you know how much their bill came to?”
The waiter tells me. Not sure why I’m asking. Assuming I’m being intrusive because I am sometimes. It’s a lot to spend on an impulse for a complete and total stranger. But fuck it. These moments don’t happen everyday.
“I’ll pay the bill.”
“What? Do you know them? Random act of kindness?”
I shake my head. This isn’t random. I want that to be clear.
“Alright. I got it. On one condition. When you tell them that the bill is covered you have to tell the woman it’s because she’s beautiful. I want her to hear that.”
I pay their bill and my bill and I leave without letting them know who I am. And I’m imagining what happened next over and over in my head as I type this. Their surprise that someone covered the bill. Them looking up expecting to see someone they know. Learning that the person is gone and asking why it happened. And her getting to hear that it’s because she’s beautiful. And I feel this deep hope that she’ll carry this strange moment with her as an unresolved mystery. And everyday she will remember that strangers think she’s beautiful. And maybe she will get a sense of the extreme wonderful effect she has on the world simply by caring about the people in her life. That she won’t forget she shines.
So I imagine the waiter coming toward the table.
Them looking up. The words passing through the waiter’s lips.
“A stranger covered your cheque. He said it’s because he thinks you’re beautiful.”
I imagine what the smile looks like. I imagine her thinking about it in a week or a month or a year and having that same smile. I don’t know what that smile looks like. So the mystery stays with me. So I get to keep it unresolved. As a question. As a mystery. As a reminder that we don’t get to see the effect we have on strangers. That we can do more than we think we are capable of. That somethings are better than our imagination.
I write this story because I want to remember that moments like this are possible. That some things are better than being reasonable.
You probably thought this story was over. I certainly did.
What if I told you that my interpretation of events was almost entirely inaccurate?
So I may have not been wearing my glasses when all this happened or in stealing glances I may have been a poor eyewitness.
I think my glasses were foggy and I may have taken them off and forgot to put them back on. Today the waiter was excited to explain what happened. It didn’t exactly conform to my expectations.
“They were so amazed that someone had done that for their daughter and that their meals were covered too. They were giddy.”
“Yeah the elderly couple and their daughter.”
“Wait. How old was their daughter?”
It occurs to me that the math doesn’t add up. One of the old men was a woman. The only one who could be a daughter was the raven haired woman. Which creates some questions.
See they were in a dark corner. And not having my glasses on (or being a terrible witness) I assumed a lot of things that weren’t quite true. I thought I saw a man and his wife. It was actually his daughter. She was playing with her father’s face. Being affectionate but a different kind of affection. Sherlock wins again.
1) The second old man was actually a senior citizen woman and the first elderly man’s wife. I don’t quite understand why I thought that. Possibly because it’s rude to stare.
2) The woman who I thought was an older woman was actually 35 but the shadows playing in the corner of the restaurant were tricky and I made a mistake. She looked extremely youthful because she was actually just five years older than me. So it sort of changes the perceived meaning of the gesture. It also prevents me from explaining what I thought I was doing because culture has this absurd idea that you shouldn’t assume 35 year old women are actually 60.
3) Consolation. Her parents were South African retirees and had been struggling with their English. They had been feeling uncomfortable in a new country and were moved nearly to tears by this strange display of kindness.
While the gesture remains good and pure it was not at all what I thought it was and my reasons came from poor eyesight and a total misunderstanding of almost everything that was happening. I thought I’d share this with you. Sometimes you do a good thing for a good reason. But then it turns out that you completely misread the situation and your good reason is a play of light, a darkened corner of a restaurant, possibly absent glasses and an overactive imagination. And even with your faulty understanding of what is actually going on you can end up doing a completely different kind gesture.
If I meet this woman in real life I will not be able to explain the meaning of my gesture or my mistaken belief that she was married to her father. It doesn’t take away from what happened or even destroy the sentiment that inspired it. I wanted to make someone feel good about themselves. I succeeded.
It just proves that life isn’t quite how we imagine it.
Which is a little magical in and of itself.