“What are you staring at?” she asked with an attitude like she wanted to fist-fight right there in the restaurant.
At first, I was shocked into silence but when I found my voice I answered with as much attitude as she had given. “Certainly not you, I was checking out the book sticking out of your pocketbook.”
She pulled the small book with a plain, unmarked cover from her purse and tossed it on the counter, almost knocking my cup of coffee over. “Now you can have a better look,” she spat.
I pushed the book back at her with enough force to let her know I wasn’t going to cower down to her defiance. “I could care less what’s in it. I was just looking at it. What’s your problem anyway?”
She stood up and pushed her long auburn hair from her face. “You wanna know what my problem is? Step outside and I’ll show ya.”
She was much younger than myself but I wasn’t going to let her push me around or intimidate like some punk chick from the corner. I got up. “Lead on,” I motioned toward the door.
The only other patrons in the place at the time was a young couple sitting in a booth in the back of the restaurant and either they didn’t hear what was going on or could have cared less.
I followed the girl out of the restaurant making sure to keep just enough distance between in the event she tried to sucker punch me or kick.
She proceeded around the corner to the near empty parking lot and turned to face me. The sun was shining directly into her face. I watched while she pulled a pair of glasses from her pocket and put them on. At first, I thought they were regular glasses until she lifted her head. They were similar to the Air Force glasses; the mirrored sunglasses that reflect a clear blue sky. Only these were reflecting an image of myself.
She lowered her bag to the ground and took a stance. “Let’s do it.”
I just stared at her. I knew what she meant but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bust her butt a little. “Let’s do it? What the hell is that? Are you asking me to have sex with you or something?”
She screwed her face up. “No! I’m not…I’m not asking you for no damn sex. “What? What are you some kind of dyke or something?”
“Oh, so now you’re interested in me,” I remarked.
“Interested in you!; are you crazy! Why the hell would I be interested in your ugly butt for?”
I smiled. “So you are hinting for sex.”
“Well, you must be being that you already checked my butt out to make a decision that it was ugly.”
She put her hands down. “For your information, I wasn’t checking your butt out. It’s just an expression, just like when I said, let’s do it.”
“Oh yeah”, I smirked. “So what is it that we’re supposed to be doing anyway?”
She slid her fingers in her hair and pushed it back from her face and started laughing. “You’re crazy, you know that? Did you escape from a nut house or something?”
I chuckled knowing the tension between us had been diffused. “No, I didn’t escape from a nut house but why don’t we go in and get a fresh start over coffee. What do you say?”
She leaned and picked up her pocketbook. “Might as well, besides, I don’t want to get accused of beating up on some old lady.”
I laughed. “I’ll give you the fact that I’m older, but that’s all I’ll give you.”
She came up to me. “You are one brassy broad, I’ll say that.”
The diner was empty when we went back inside so we sat in the booth in the back where the young couple had been seated. The fellow behind the counter came over to take our order. Having heard the exchange at the counter minutes before, he gave a puzzled look, and then smiled.
My name’s Gina,” I said and stuck my hand out.
She took my hand and smiled, “I’m Dori”.
Our coffees and snacks came and as we ate and drank our coffee, we chatted about many things; the majority of the conversation revolved around her. I learned she had been thrown out of her house when she was sixteen and had spent time in the Juvenile System until she turned 18.
Dori continued telling me how she had lived on the streets for a number of years, staying in shelters and eating at the soup kitchens as often as she could. She also admitted having gotten into drugs and some alcohol, but emphasized she never once drifted into prostitution even though the pimps offered her good money to do it.
After a while, she reached down and took the red covered book from her pocketbook and placed it on the table. I could tell by the way she gently caressed the cover that it had special meaning to her and waited patiently for her to tell me about it.
Dori leaned back and looked at me. The glimmer of tears were brimming her lids. When she spoke, it was with a feeling of reverence in her voice.
“The book is my journal. It’s mostly all notes but I know the stories that go with them. I’m hoping to go back to school someday and maybe learn how to write a book about my life.”
She laughed quietly. “School, who am I kidding? I’ll never make it to college.”
“Did you graduate from high school?” I asked as tenderly as possible.
She smiled weakly and a tear trickled down her cheek. “I got my G.E.D. the year after I got raped. Nice, huh?”
“You can still do it,” I encouraged her,
“Yeah; how? I don’t have money or a place to live or clothes to go to school. Forget it it’s just a stupid dream anyway.”
Call it impulse, foolishness, or whatever you want to; all I know is that something deep inside me said this was an opportunity to make a difference in this girl’s life. I reached out and placed my hand on her wrist. “I have a spare room. You could come live with me.”
She chuckled and her chocolate brown eyes twinkled. “You sure you’re not a dyke?”
I couldn’t help laughing myself. “I assure you, I’m not a dyke. Besides, I could use some help cleaning the place and cooking and helping with chores. After all, you did say I was an old lady.”
“What about money?” she asked withdrawing her hand from the table.
“We can go to the school and apply for a scholarship. I’ll help you.”
She turned her head slightly and looked at me quizzically. “Why would you want to help me, especially after I wanted to beat you down?”
“Because I think it’s time you had a good break in your life. What do you say?”
“Well, if you don’t want to you don’t have to. It’s your life, your dream.”
She touched the book. “You aren’t jerking me around? You’re being straight up with me?”
“I give you my word I’m being straight up with you. That’s the only guarantee I can give you.”
She lifted the book from the table and handed it to me. It slipped from my hand and when I lifted it, the back cover was up. On the cover was a hand-drawn picture of what looked to be a spider’s egg sack.
“Is this what I think it is?” I asked. “Is it a spider’s egg sack?”
She nodded. “It’s a reminder to me that spider’s are poisonous and there a lot of them out there. Just like there are a lot of bad people out there who will hurt you when they can.”
That was twelve years ago. Dori finished college and is now a very successful therapist, helping many young people overcome the abuse of families, drugs and whatever else life has thrown at them. She no longer lives with me having married a wonderful fellow, who teaches, but they still come around and we celebrate all the occasions the way a loving family should.
September 25, 2013