Dear Lady at Panera,
I saw you this morning.
I was rushing. I was late for what is probably my last 14-hour Sunday shift at a job I've worked for eight years. I don't remember the last Sunday I was on time for my 7:45am start but today, on my possible last long day of work before we close, I knew the time stamp would read somewhere in the 7:52am punch.
I didn't see you when I walked in.
I didn't see you while I was waiting for the cashier to finish with the person in front of me.
I didn't see you while I was placing my order and paying.
I didn't see you while I was filling up my cup with coffee.
I didn't see you while I was thanking the line cook who handed me my bag and wished me a good day.
I saw you on my way out the door.
I know you think no one saw you because, really, it was 7:20am on a Sunday and who in their right mind is up and at Panera that early? But I was and you were and I saw you.
You were not rushing. Even though the restaurant had only opened 20 minutes earlier, your table was set up as if you had been there for hours. Tucked away in a corner, you had a computer and books and a cup of coffee and what looked to be an entire filing cabinet of files. You weren't looking at any of it. You were looking out the window toward the businesses that dotted the other side of the strip mall, absentmindedly playing with the back of the scarf that covered your head. You were crying in a way that I don't know if you realized you were crying. You looked like the type of person who would apologize for yourself if you realized I saw you.
I saw you, Lady at Panera. I saw you for 15 seconds on my way out of the door but I can't stop thinking about you. I saw myself in you.