Jeepers creepers, it’s him again! I dip my head down, watching through my lashes in an attempt not to be outright staring. I doubt I’m fooling anyone in this coffee line. I’ve never been this close before. Close enough to see that his fitted jeans are cuffed unevenly, not hitting the tops of his lace-up boots in the same place. I could reach out and touch the lived-in leather jacket stretching across his broad shoulders. Maybe run my fingers through those short dark curls. Except my first instinct is to wrap my arms around him protectively because it’s not his looks that first caught my attention. It was the weight that seems to be pressing down on him, curving his spine, bowing his head, rounding his shoulders inward. He seems worn out. Weary. In need of a hug. Not that I should be the one to give it to him. I have to cross my arms, though, keeping them to myself, to stop the ridiculous impulse to hug a complete stranger. Keep it together, Ivy, don’t be such a weirdo.
As the weeks go by I see him fairly regularly, from afar. Whether it’s ordering two to-go cups in the local coffee shop, The Foundry, or walking through the park bordering the hospital, that weight is ever-present and seems to be increasing. He always has the same worn paperback in his pocket with what looks like a comb as a bookmark. Why a comb? Is that good for the book? Probably not but it’s intriguing. I find myself spending far too much time wondering where he’s headed, what is making him that sad, and what the book is about. I need to get a life. It’s not that unusual for me to spend time watching someone I want to help, but without anything to indicate what he needs, this is feeling stalker-ish. Something tells me an awkward stalker is not the one thing he needs. That logic doesn’t keep me from thinking about him though. I’m calling him Weary Stranger and he’s a puzzle I can’t solve. I think about him while I walk to The Birth and Wellness Collective where I work as a doula. I ponder the source of his problems while in yoga. I wonder what I could do for him while sipping my nightly tea. I don’t know him, I have no responsibility towards him, but I can’t shake my desire to help. Maybe I could fall back on my old standby and write him a note.
I love helping people — doing small, special things to make their day. Sending anonymous cards has a special place in my heart. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve written over the years. I can struggle with sharing my feelings out loud but writing is different. I’d never been brave enough to be so honest in person. In an anonymous card, I feel free. I’ve moved beyond blank cards pilfered from the summer camp craft cabin though. 12-year-old me would be proud of how I’ve grown my hobby that started with a secret-admirer-style note to the most popular boy at camp. I wasn’t one of his groupies, but I did admire his kind nature and wrote to him to tell him I thought that was more impressive than his good looks. That note caused him to stop preening for the girls and become the kind role model the younger campers needed and gave me a way to use my quiet observations to care for others. I’m thankful I now have more options than my sub-par artwork on cheap cardstock! I found this sweet Etsy shop, Reflection Paper Crafts, that sells blank cards with gorgeous calligraphy and simple art that makes a statement. I love being able to build up a stranger inside something pretty! I have the perfect art picked out for Weary Stranger but I’m still struggling with what to say. I haven’t seen him enough to know what he needs, just that he needs something.