Setting: Caribou Coffee – Park Road Shopping Center – Charlotte, NC
Time: December 18, 2102 9:15 am
(I’m sitting in Caribou coffee, paying my cell bill before they cut me off, arranging my oatmeal, coffee, and water. I take out my journal to write when a group of children enter followed by their doting teachers. I try not to look. In short order they begin to sing a song that I am not familiar with about cultural unity followed by a traditional Christmas carol which I can’t remember because by this time I have dissolved into tears. Across from me sits a woman and her baby who is no older than about 9 months. She sees me.)
Woman: Oh my God, are you okay?
Me: I can’t … it’s just … just. The kids you know?
(She turns to the children and quickly turns back.)
Woman: Yeah. (pause) I can’t even watch the news.
Me: Me either.
(I cry a little more. She squeezes what looks like pudding into the baby’s mouth. She … I think it was a she … she has chubby rosy cheeks and is adorable.)
Me: (still slightly distraught) This is the kind of stuff they were probably doing.
(We both pause. The children finish their song. We look at one another and we clap for them. She goes back to tending to the baby. The two of them play and laugh. The children have exited. I have put my headphones back in. Mo’ Betta Blues plays. I go back to my journaling and glance up just in time to see the woman leaving. We mime:
Woman: Have a good day.
Me: You too. Happy Holidays … Have a happy …
(She’s gone. Back to my journal.)