Thoughts on 13th and Alder

People watching at the Starbucks on 13th & Alder is always such a strange experience. In the same street, even in the same space you have people pulling their expensive Apple laptops out of their designer backpacks or purses, nonchalantly checking their shiny new iPhones while sipping venti mochas and discussing plans for travel, parties, college, sororities, fraternities, study abroad, business, ventures, relationships, shopping.
And then there are people considerably less decked out. 

My vision is now shifting to the man on the street corner who plays guitar, smokes, and asks passersby for a small blessing. Many walk by, few notice him. Some cross the street to avoid him, diverting diagonally across the busy road. 

The man next to me is here every day. Or, he always is whenever I am here. His beard is long and unkempt, his clothes stained. His hands tremble violently as he shifts in his seat. He doesn't exactly smell pleasant, the faint scent of an body long unwashed drifts over. I wonder if he has a place to shower. As I write this, his fingers drum and twist on the counter, forming invisible patterns and I wonder what he is thinking. Where does he sleep at night? Does he have friends? He shakily attempts to pour the remnants of his drip coffee into a larger, half-full Dutch Bros. cup.  Do the Starbucks employees even treat him kindly? Does anyone treat him kindly?

I'm getting up now. As I slip my computer back in my bag, he turns his head and his gaze shifts to mine.

Our eyes meet.

For the briefest moment, we meet in an unflinching, hard-on stare. His eyes are simultaneously cloudy and bright, red-rimmed but strong. He isn't looking at me.

He's looking through me.

And then he drops his head. And I leave, hardly a backward glance as I press the weight of my body on the door. And so the cycle continues. I'll come back tomorrow, or the day after. I know it'll be the same. He'll be there, and so will the man playing guitar on the corner. Or some variation of him.

I know it won't change tomorrow. 
Or the day after.
Or in this lifetime.

I know we have been brought up to fear the "other". The outsiders. The ones who look different, smell different, sound different. The ones who beg or loiter or sleep on benches. The ones who never knew a new pair of jeans or a clean bed or enough food to fill their bellies. The ones who suffer from mental illnesses, who have lived their lives tormented and wracked by unbalanced hormones or brain chemicals. The ones now condemned to live lives of solitude, pain, loneliness, rejection. 

The ones who have the disdain of society and the cold, hard reality of an asphalt mattress.

 All I want is people to look. Don't turn away in disgust. I know your life is complicated, and that you fear the unknown. But everyone is a child of God. Please look. Don't fear the confrontation of a stare. Look up from your iPhone. Your Apple computer. Your textbook. Your travel plans. Look up. Please, I beg you. Look. 

Just look.



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about me

Zoe. 22. Christian. PNW girl at heart, but following where He leads.
Always-wanderer, old book-collector, and coffee enthusiast.