Lee remembered me yesterday—-or at least he put on a very good show that he did. But I wasn’t surprised because since our very first encounter I haven’t forgotten him either.
Three years ago, I went to open a bank account in my new state. When he greeted me, his handshake was firm and his smile genuine. While we waited for my info to process, we traded dreams of travelling and writing about our travels, and commiserated over our inability to pull up enough stakes to make those dreams come true.
Even though that feels like ages ago, every time I go in I look for him from the corner of my eye, or in a peek over the shoulder. Sometimes he sees me, and we acknowledge one another, but we never talk.
Today, sunk in a deep tapestry-covered chair across the lobby from his desk, I observed him as he conducted business with an elderly lady who was sporting white pants and pinkish hair. Intermittently, I watched the other banker, Antonio who has assisted me more than once and had snapped the presentable little ID picture that graces the front of my debit card. Antonio sat at his desk across the lobby helping two Indian gentlemen. Mine was the problem next in line for either Antonio or Lee to address, and I sat there calculating the details to determine which one would finish his business first.
Sometimes I can feel in my gut when something will go my way. Today, I wasn’t so sure. Antonio might just as easily have finished first to assist me. He was leaning forward in his seat, staring at the screen with the earnestness of a man watching hourglasses turn. The race could have gone either way. After all, hourglasses sometimes surprise us by holding scanty measures of sand, and little old ladies tend to ramble. But within two minutes, the pink-haired lady walked shakily toward the exit door, and Lee was walking toward me.
Recognition immediately lit his eyes. Not the way that a businessman recognizes a familiar loyal customer, and definitely not the way that a man softens his gaze when looking at a women with whom he has trusted his heart. But perhaps with the gaze of a man who had once recognized a soul like his own and remembered feeling comfortable with it. He escorted me to the desk, pulled out my chair, and then asked how he could help me.
The process took 2 minutes, no more, no less. When he slid my card back across the glossy desk top to me, he smiled as if glad the business part was over so that we could talk 'us.' His words were soft, as if we had a history. “I haven’t seen you in here in a while.” As if he’d been looking.
I resisted the urge to say, “Silly man. Don’t you know I’m invisible?” But he was looking at me concerned, as if he was ready to absorb my explanation. So I answered the question vaguely, all the while searching his eyes for traces of what might-have-been. I found none. Neither did I find the office eyes of a man hiding from home. Just a friendly gaze as if he knew how to remember people and value them.
When we wrapped up our conversation, he walked me to the door, said goodbye as if my visit had affected his day.
I got in my car and sighed at the thought of his kindness. It’s not as if he meant anything--surely not with that ring on his finger. It’s not as if those moments were significant.
So I pulled away to grocery shop for another dinner alone, and smiled, and carried on with my life as if I wasn't scared that there are no kind, single men out there. As if I’m sure that someday I’ll find a heart in which to safely rest mine. As if I don’t worry sometimes that I’ll always be alone.