coffee and houses


In my busiest season, we have decided to move. I have never been more stressed and my house has never been cleaner.

The other day, Tess was asked what if some married couple wanted to buy our house and start a family. I got more than a little misty and told her that was exactly who me and her dad were when we walked through those doors.
When we signed our life away.

It has been a weird process for me.
The packing up.
The moving on.
The leaving things behind.

I know it is time.
But. Oh. My. Heart. 
And let's be honest, it will just be a few miles down the road.
It doesn’t help that I have been listening to Miranda Lambert’s, "The House That Built Me" on repeat for weeks now. I  know this isn't the house I grew up in, but it is in every way possible the house I have grown in.

I knew things would be fast, and I honestly haven’t had much time to shop or think or do anything besides shove some winter clothes and a fondue set into the tower of boxes in my garage.
The realtors joked that the house would go fast and I kept joking to my friends how we would sell our home and have no where to go. I warned them to clear out some guest bedrooms for us. That soon we would be homeless. A few who know me well retorted that I love homeless people so I shouldn't have a problem with it.

My joke might have some truth to it.
We had five offers in less than that many days. All well above asking price.
This weekend we were on the other end and traipsed through home after home after home.
The problem was that they all just looked like houses to me.
With identical floor plans and yards that seem way too small.

Overwhelmed on all fronts in my life I called in sick a few days ago so that I could work.
I hoped to get a shower, mow the yard, have the nail in my tire removed, read a few chapters for grad school and grade about a million papers from my new home away from home…Starbucks.

On my way into the parking lot I saw a man on a bike who obviously hadn’t showered in weeks.
He wore layers of clothes in the hot rain and had a good half dozen overflowing plastic shopping bags hanging from his handlebars. He parked in the field behind Starbucks and Waffle House and was picking up aluminum cans.  I stopped. Rolled down my window and asked if I could buy him breakfast. Preferably something with hash browns on the side. Even through the layers of dirt I could see him blush. He assured me that he still had some peanut butter and crackers and that my kindness was unnecessary. I said of course it was unnecessary, that is the definition of kindness.  But I have done this before, and know that it is more of fear of being turned away than anything else. So, I pushed. I asked if I could at least go inside Starbucks and get him some breakfast. 
He said, "Maybe. Just something small." 
“How do you like your coffee?” I asked.
“Just a little bit,” he said.
“Black”

I ordered for the both of us.
One with cream and another without. Both cups larger than they needed to be.
I went back outside with arms full and let him choose a pastry.
I told him my name. Asked for his. And tried to look him in the eye, but it was all a little much for him. 
He looked down, nibbled on his coffee cake and sipped.
“Tony,” he said.
I sat.
I didn’t even need to ask more than his name.
As soon as I sat he started talking.
He told me about his brother. They were only 13 months apart and they did everything together.
His last job he said, they got paid 17$ an hour.
And this was an exorbitant amount of money to him. 
He said they both set their watch to ring on the hour so that they could feel 17$ richer every time it went off.
His brother got sick.
He didn’t get better.
17$ an hour with no health insurance didn’t go quite as far as they thought it would.
He died last summer.
Tony never recovered.
Words just poured out of him. Like maybe he hadn’t had the chance to talk to anyone besides himself in a while. 
I am a terrible listener. I interrupt. I one up. I get distracted. I mostly just sit there and wait for my turn to talk.
But with Tony, I just listened and ate my croissant.
I handed him a few granola bars that they were just giving away inside to people who happily spend four dollars on coffee, while this guy picked up trash just a few yards away.
I tucked a twenty in between the bars so he would find it later.

I told him I needed to go do some homework.
He thanked me for the coffee.
I thanked him for his story.

We accepted an offer on our house.
We made an offer an another.
In all of this, when I feel overwhelmed. Or like playing Miranda Lambert one more time.
When I can’t find the pants I want to wear because I think they might be packed.
Or the uncertainty of where I will live, what school my kids will go to, if our offer will be accepted, what will happen if it doesn't, if my old house will pass inspection or appraise well, if we can afford any of it,  and a million other questions and uncertainties that swirl.
I try to think about Tony instead.
Those questions are much simpler and more important.
Where will he sleep? What will he eat? Is he warm? Is he hungry? 

I’ve looked for him and his bike every day since but I have not seen him again.
I hope I do. 

I hope we both find our way home.

1 comments:

AGraham625 said...

Beautiful! You have such a gift with words. I hope you see him again too. What a blessing you were on his day and you to his.!