I felt trapped between my table and the wall behind me, my level of discomfort almost as high as the drama that had just unfolded.
She picked her purse up off of the floor and began riffling through it, sniffing back her emotion. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. I looked up at her just as she looked at the handkerchief in my hand, and then she shifted her gaze to my eyes.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”
She smiled sadly and said, “It isn’t as if we gave you a choice. No, I should be apologizing to you. Here you are trying to enjoy a meal and you have to endure my…I don’t even know how to describe…”
“No need. Here.” I handed her my handkerchief, she smiled a thank-you.
She dabbed at her eyes and gently blew her nose into the square of cloth. “I must admit, this is the first time anyone has ever shared a handkerchief with me. What is the protocol now that it’s been used? Do I hand it back? Do I wash it and mail it back to you? Or should I just give you cash?”
“None of the above, actually. I have a drawer full, just for moments like this[KT1] . I think the sensible thing would be that you just keep it.” I smiled and hoped that her day had warmed a bit. I found myself attracted to her, not just her beauty, but her sadness, her vulnerability. What is it about pain that we humans seem to take pleasure in? Is it that someone else’s hurt reminds us that ours isn’t so bad?
She dabbed a couple of times and asked, “How did you ever decide to hoard handkerchiefs?”
I laughed, “Well’ hoard’ may be a bit strong. Unusual, that’s certainly the case. Have you ever noticed that when you’re meeting with someone, they’ll occasionally touch their nose? I do, and I can never tell if they have an itch or are hinting that I’m displaying too much. So, I decided I needed to carry something. I found that tissues were to messy, so I decided to try cloth. And I’ve never looked back.”
“Very reasonable of you. I think I’ll try that myself.” She wiped below her eyes and said, “I know I look a wreck, do you mind watching my coat? I need to go clean up, and I’ll be right back.”
“Not a problem.”
She smiled, rose from her seat, and walked toward the ladies room. Not only did she have a pretty face, but she was slender, and from the look of her legs, physically fit.