Lingering mystery



Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

The restaurant door opens, and winter enters the room, accompanying the man in the brown coat and knit cap. A Chevy Citation, the color of his coat, idles in the lot, waiting for him, exhaling a fog of exhaust into the arctic air.

The man is preoccupied. He shuffles as he walks and his head is bowed slightly, his shoulders stooped. He steps to the counter and mumbles a request, places an order. All this without eye contact. His face is to the floor—he studies his shoes, the brown tile floor, the red rectangle of carpet by the door.

Once, maybe twice, his shoulders rise and then fall in a deep, almost exaggerated sigh. An order number is called—not his—but he lifts his face and his eyes follow the brisk young businessman as he steps to the counter to collect his order. The guy in the suit is all smiles and pleasant banter, optimism and sunny sentiment.

The man in the brown coat and knit cap sighs again, and once more his eyes trace the pattern in the flooring, the details on his shoes.

What is this unseen heaviness that weighs on his shoulders, that pulls his gaze to the floor and holds it there, that draws those deep sighs from his chest?

A number is called. Wordlessly, the man collects his order, shuffles across the floor, steps through the doors and climbs into the idling Citation. He backs out and is gone, leaving nothing behind except the winter chill that entered the room as he left, and the lingering mystery of human concern.

Copyright © 2011 by James P. Long | Faith and Imagination