This post is a continuation of “Angel in My Life: Responding.”
Just a week later, I was back up north, transferring my mom from the nursing facility hell hole to an independent living facility, arranging her home care, setting up her new space, and fending off a family member who – in an extended narcissistic temper tantrum – threatened to unravel the entire undertaking. Meanwhile, despite the battered emotional state I was in, I continued my quest to quietly put myself in Allen’s presence, in the hopes that he would begin stepping toward me and opening his heart once more.
As I headed toward the mini-market in the hotel lobby on Monday morning, I saw Allen down the hall and said hello. When he responded “hey” back, his expression appeared not only surprised but also a tad annoyed. And so, while fishing around for sugar-free cereal, I considered ditching Project Allen altogether. I was somewhat of a wreck and couldn’t handle any more drama.
I was also, however, fully engaged in social experiment mode, intrigued about what would happen next. And damn it, I wanted my morning latte. So I headed toward the café for the umpteenth time. As I passed the window, Allen looked out and, upon seeing me, burst into a huge grin. Then, when I walked into the café, he came out from behind the counter, opened his arms, and gave me a hug. A stiff, bony-assed, quick hug, mind you, but a hug nonetheless.
Following the old hi-how-are-you-fine-thanks-how-are-you, Allen fiddled with receipts he’d lined up on the counter. He looked down, saying nothing. His energy seemed content, almost expectant. I, to the contrary, felt awkward, pressed for time, and slightly annoyed: What, he’s just going to sit there and leave me standing here uncomfortably? Does he expect me to do all the work? Is he reveling in my chasing him?
“I hate to be abrupt,” I interjected into the silence, with as friendly a tone as possible, “but I gotta cruise. I have a conference at the nursing facility, and I’m running late. Can I get a medium latte?” Allen’s body stiffened and straightened — facial expression going blank, demeanor turning professional. “Of course,” he replied, working his way around the counter and quietly beginning to fix my drink. Oh, she’s only here for coffee, his body language seemed to register in a jolt.
After a lull, I initiated small talk. “So are you getting out and enjoying the sunshine?” I asked. “No,” he replied with a knowing smile, “I’m not enjoying much of anything right now.”
We continued to chit-chat, the conversation becoming increasingly relaxed and friendly. Finally, Allen finished up the latte and placed it on the counter. “This one’s on me,” he said. “Thanks darling,” I replied, scooping it up and heading towards the door. “I’ll see you later.” He began coughing as I stepped outside. ”Feel better!” I shouted behind me. “Thanks!” he called back. I smiled with the feeling that things were returning to normal.