Friday, September 25, 2009

The Lonely Lady

It was winter last year when I first encountered the lonely lady and I've had two additional sightings since.

I met up with a group of friends last year at BJ's restaurant for appetizers and beer, so we sat at the high tables of the bar. Across from me were the booths and that's when I saw one of the saddest sights I've ever seen. There was this old lady hunched over her food, sitting alone in the booth, asleep. I felt bad catching other people staring at her, but I was obviously guilty of this as well. I don't know how else to explain it, but it was absolutely depressing on so many levels. I had a billion thoughts simultaneously pass through my mind trying to figure out what led her here, alone and asleep.

I imagined the lonely lady when she was first brought into the world, her parents at the hospital as her mother is holding her newborn baby daughter, smiling, envisioning a bright future, a great life. She learns to walk, learns to speak, goes to school, plays tag, makes friends, vacations with the family, graduates, falls in love, and fast forward all that to this very moment, where she's sitting alone and asleep. I could be wrong or right about her past, but I'll never know, and I'll always wonder.

I saw her at In-N-Out once before and I saw her again tonight and again, she was sleeping both times. I glanced at her table and saw an empty tray with scraps, a newspaper, a ziplock bag full of items, and hand sanitizer. I'm happy to know she eats, that she can afford to eat, and that she keeps herself busy reading. On my way out she was awake, packing up, and cleaning the table, so she's either considerate or has o.c.d. or both.

Now I know I can be totally wrong about everything and that I shouldn't even pity her, because she could be absolutely happy the way she is, but again, I don't know if she is or isn't. Even though she seemed like the loneliest person there, in a crowd full of teenagers and adults lost in life, the lonely lady was definitely not the loneliest.