May 17, 2012

A Benediction

The other day, I had a late lunch at my favorite restaurant, Corona Village. It’s a place, by the way, that I will thank in the acknowledgements of my first book because it’s a place I can go and just write. Whether I’m working on my quota of pages or simply bitching long-hand, they single-handedly got me through many a tough spell. I try to go on the off hours, so there’s more privacy, and I’ve gotten to know the waiters and waitresses and bartender and owner well. They’re such good folks.

So the other day I was seated by a new waiter I had not met before. They took my order and brought it, and I was writing in my notebook and eating my arroz con pollo when the young man stopped back by to check that everything was all right. I said it was. And then he hesitated.

He’s a good-looking young man, in his early to mid twenties, medium-tall and slender with dark hair and dark eyes and just a little bit of a California Hispanic accent. He stood hunched forward a little on the balls of his feet with his hands clasped in front of him and his head bobbed forward in good will.

He hesitated, then he took a tentative half-step back and said, “Are you a business woman?”

“Well, I guess,” I said. “I’m a writer and an editor.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You just looked ...”

“Yes, I think you could say that I am.”

“Well, that’s something I would really like to be,” he said, and when he said it, he really meant it. “You see, I own a house in California and that’s what I’d really like to do here. I’d like to be in real estate, own some properties.” He had taken a few more steps back toward my table, and his face was open like a child’s. “Do you have any tips for me?”

Oh, how I had wished I had the answers. Thoughts of the poor economy and my years and years of working service jobs such as a waitress and bartender came and went. I remembered how I had yearned for a better life, how I had vowed that it didn’t matter how long it took and how hard I had to work, I would get that college degree. I wouldn’t be a waitress for the rest of my life.

I just melted on the inside. I did not know the answers.

“Well,” I said, “do you know marketing? You could volunteer to do marketing for any organization you belong to, say a church, and then you could put that on your resume. You could go to LCCC [our community college] and take classes. I think they’re fairly inexpensive.”

And then I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Where had all my years of experience gone, all my useful tidbits?

“It will be hard getting started,” I added, “but you can do it.” It sounded lame, but what more could I say?

“Oh, okay,” he said. “Can I ask your name?”

“Tamara. And what’s yours?”

I thought he said Jason at first, but no, it was Jesse. We shook hands.

“Very nice to meet you, Jesse,” I said as he turned back to his work. I was left with such a feeling of ... I don't know. Empathy, surely. But sorrow too.

And so for you, Jesse, as I can’t seem to find the right words myself, a benediction.


by Rabindranath Tagore

Bless this little heart, this white soul that has won the kiss of
heaven for our earth.
He loves the light of the sun, he loves the sight of his
mother's face.
He has not learned to despise the dust, and to hanker after
Clasp him to your heart and bless him.
He has come into this land of an hundred cross-roads.
I know not how he chose you from the crowd, came to your door,
and grasped your hand to ask his way.
He will follow you, laughing the talking, and not a doubt in
his heart.
Keep his trust, lead him straight and bless him.
Lay your hand on his head, and pray that though the waves
underneath grow threatening, yet the breath from above may come and
fill his sails and waft him to the heaven of peace.
Forget him not in your hurry, let him come to your heart and
bless him.

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