Angel in My Life: Responding

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

May 2nd, 2009 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

This post is a continuation of “Angel in My Life: Returning.”

Staging an organic interaction is an interesting contradiction. On the one hand, we may need to place ourselves in time and space in such a way that certain dynamics can occur spontaneously. On the other hand, how spontaneous are those dynamics when we are setting them up?

I knew Allen worked at the café after 10 am, but wasn’t so sure if he worked before. I also knew that the café was crowded until about 11am, so I’d want to arrive on the later side of things. Meanwhile the restaurant stopped serving eggs at 10 am, and I wanted a full-on omelette breakfast. I also wanted to look fabulous before trotting downstairs, so I’d need to wake up with enough time to shower and blow dry my hair.

That left me a very narrow window of time to enact my plan: I’d have to wake up around 9 am, get to the restaurant at 10 am, dilly-dally around my breakfast table until just before 11 am, then head off to the café to order my latte.

I woke up at 8 am. Annoyed.

I took extra long rolling out of bed and getting ready, so the plan was in full swing by 9:45 am. I passed the café and looked in through the window. Allen was right up against it, preparing a coffee drink. I saw in his eyes a mixture of softness, beauty, and seriousness, with perhaps a touch of sadness.

I strode past and entered the restaurant, where I sat at my favorite table near the window. Yet again, I was so nervous that my stomach was simultaneously turning and tangled up in knots, and I was shaking on the inside. How do I ground? I asked myself. I need something to hang on to.

I opened up my Meditation Secrets for Women book to a random page – which turned out to be tips on grounding. (I love it when shit like that happens.) Reading the passages helped me center myself. And yet, throughout the process, I still felt so nervous and scared that I repeatedly considered ditching my plan and bolting for my room immediately after finishing breakfast.

That’s when I felt compassion for whatever Allen might be going through. It takes a ton of courage to face our fears and go through them, I thought. And not everyone has the spirit or skill to do that.

Finally it was time to move on, and I headed to the café, still shaking. Either Allen didn’t notice me while I was in line, or he ignored me. Regardless, he was focused on whichever customer was right in front of him, as I inched closer. I, meanwhile, tried to be cool and calm — looking at the furniture, out the window, occasionally glancing at him, feeling altogether awkward.

The situation got ridiculous when there was just one person between us. “Hi, how’s it going?” I asked, stepping forward after Allen took that person’s order. “Oh hey,” he said – face neither lighting up nor looking surprised this time – “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

Since nobody was behind me in line, I went and sat down in a chair. I suddenly felt calm, though it was still awkward to be sitting there, waiting for I wasn’t sure what. About five minutes later, a man walked in through the outer door. I got up to claim my place in line and give my order (medium latte), so that I didn’t end up waiting indefinitely. I returned to my seat and kept my gaze focused on the kid who was trying to touch everything and the mom who kept telling her not to.

Allen, meanwhile, was busy making drinks behind the counter. Five or ten minutes later, he came over to the woman on my right, handing her an iced tea. While approaching her, he was looking at me – smiling goofily, moving awkwardly and shyly. It was very cute. He then came up to me, extending his hand. “Hi, how are you?” he asked.

Just two visits earlier, he’d been extending his tongue. In much closer range. How weird is that? “I’m good, thanks,” I replied, smiling and shaking his outstretched hand. He walked back behind the counter to make more drinks. Progress, I thought. It’s a start. I felt happy just having that much contact.

“Grande latte,” Allen announced minutes later, setting my drink on the counter and returning to work. It would have been nice if he’d said something to the effect of, “Loolwa, here’s your drink,” but whatever. I went to pick it up. There was no motion of collecting payment. “Can you charge it to my room?” I asked. Allen looked caught off-guard. “Oh yeah,” he said.

That’s when it occurred to me that he might also be nervous. In fact, when he handed me the receipt to sign, he seemed very nervous, hands moving in a frantic sort of way. I calmly and slowly signed the receipt, secretly wishing he’d see my room number and show up at my door. I held out the receipt and looked straight at him. “It’s good to see you again,” I said evenly. He looked up at me and seemed caught off guard again. “Yeah,” he replied awkwardly, looking away as he took the receipt.

I turned on my heel and slowly walked out the door, coffee in hand. In the hallway, I pressed the elevator button and sipped my latte, thinking about the encounter. I should have sat in the outdoor area, where he could have come up to me while I was drinking, I mused, when suddenly Allen was in front of me, smiling awkwardly and shyly, asking how my mom was doing.

The interaction seemed so natural that it took a minute before I grasped the fact that the surprise encounter I’d visualized was actually happening (though not quite as I’d planned, given the nature of surprise encounters). We talked for a few minutes — me telling him about my mom’s healing, him telling me about his step mom’s healing. It all seemed so normal and in touch again that I had to stop myself from reaching out and hugging him. Easy girl, I thought.

The elevator came and went. As Allen told me about his stepmother’s struggles with pain, I asked if he knew about holistic medicine as a remedy. He said no. Then, as I began explaining the concept, he seemed uncomfortable and antsy. “I’ve gotta go,” he said, motioning to the direction he was heading. He looked at me pointedly. “But I’ll see you around.” “OK,” I said.

I waved, turned, and pressed the elevator button up.

The story continues with “Angel in My Life: Progressing.”

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