Public Holiday Unadventures of South Landia

December 21, 2014



Walk with me:

I’m sitting eating brunch in a superficial, modern, chain-store version of Tex-Mex, which nevertheless always has fairly fresh ingredients and a lovely greeting when you come through the door. It sits in one of those sprawling shopping centers which is now way cooler than those so-yesterday indoor malls (please). Apparently, we’ve decided it’s better to breathe all that fresh air that comes from paving over all that green stuff. Except for the tastefully designed landscaping, of course.

Being stuck in my head, I’m doing what I’ve done much of my life: observing…thinking. I hear people refer to it as feeling like being on the outside looking in, but that sounds a bit too god-like for me. I think of, or perhaps feel, it more as on the inside looking out. A fish in a fishbowl. And we’re walking…

A young black couple with their adorable, young-toddler daughter are suddenly standing at the table in front of me. He has a hard look on his face, so I feel myself tensing. They set some things on the table to claim it (this is holiday shopping season, mind you), and walk past me toward the drink machines. As I sit and calculate, it dawns on me that everyone else in the place is white, and half of them are of the NASCAR tribe.

Yeah. If I were in this guy’s shoes, I’d be a bit hard and tense, too.

When I scan back around to the table next to this couple’s, I’m struck by the confused, frightened expression on the face of the kid sitting at the end of the table closest to the couple’s. Dad (for our purposes here, I’ll call him Bubba) is also sitting at the end, straight across from this kid, but his back is to me. In my amusement/bemusement/(cemusement?), I’m pondering if the look on this kid’s face is a reaction to what Dad is expressing presently, or previous familial indoctrination. He’s in that formative 8-10 years old range, making it even tougher to read.

There are three other, older kids. One cute teenage girl, which may or may not make one of the other two guys a boyfriend instead of brother. Hmmm.

I’m train wreck fascinated at this point. The girl seems blissfully unaware of the scene, or has far more couth to show it otherwise. The two older boys seem slightly uncomfortable, but I’m having trouble gauging whether it’s a reaction to what’s at their own table or the one next door. One of the boys, the one I’m thinking is sitting just a little too close to her for a brother, says something to the group in an attempt at an ice-breaker. (That seals it, I’m going with boyfriend.) The girl is intuitively smart enough to pick up on this and run with it.

I check back in on the youngest boy to see that he is checking in with Bubba the way boys that age do for what they’re supposed to do. He still looks a bit scared and confused, but also seems to be trying on the affect of a smirk. I want to laugh and cry.

When the guy comes back to the table carrying his daughter and a high-chair, I sort of will him to look at me. You know how you can focus on someone such that they feel you looking at them? When he glances over I look him straight for a second while consciously making my face go j-u-u-st perceptively softer. He does the same, along with a guy-nod. As he turns back to his daughter he does a little, silly jiggy dance with his hands. I smile. I eat.

Within a couple of minutes Bubba clears out, loading the kids into the heavy-duty truck, I imagine.

Bless his heart…

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