You Look Familiar… June 2011

This is a post from last summer that makes me smile about the randomness of life.  Enjoy but don’t judge! 
Often times I hear that I look familiar. That Timmy’s brother’s cousin or my best friend from college looks and acts just like me. So I am used to that.
The other evening I was having a couple beers with a friend. Discussing life and sharing stories related to a book we were both reading and studying. This actually happens a lot. But the next does not.
Because of the location we were approached multiple times for money or by just random urban camping addicts. I rebuffed most while trying to engage and see if there was a genuine need and if I could help.
One dude had an amazing smile and was pushed back and forth in a wheelchair a couple times while we sipped our beers on Broadway. Finally he stopped and started chatting with us about ideas and then started playing a history trivia game with us. For about 20 seconds I was disappointed because he was taking away some of my quality time with my buddy. Then I realized he was a smart dude similar to me, maybe just a physical disability or accident made him where he was now. I was shocked that he just sat and talked to us for 10 or 15 minutes. On a busy street, with the sun beating down. But I also liked that this dude,  Ronald Washington, was judged as worthy, or possibly more worthy of my buddy’s time.  Ronald wasn’t just some weird dude with a soft spoken voice sitting in a wheelchair.  He had a genuine need– company and respect through listening that we could fulfill for a minute or 15.  The beers were empty and the quiz was getting more random so we decided to move on down the road to our separate homes.
I just missed the train that would have taken me straight home and as I walked toward another stop and didn’t see any trains on the tracks, I decided to keep walking.  And then remembered I had an expiring coupon for a sandwich shop near there.
“Anyone sitting here, seems a crime to be inside right now”
I nodded and smiled as I was trying to read a passage in a book barely looking at her.
“Naw, go ahead”
She set her little purse and drink down and went inside for something. As she walked away I noticed the intricate makeup and her attire and very high heals. She started walking back, so I looked again at my book like a 14 year old.
(In the next exchange my brain will be played by the italics.) Space indicates about 4 minutes between things said…
As she sat down she caught my eye and asked “Ever go to Sparkles? You look familiar”
-No I don’t go to clubs much
“Well, it’s a…”
-…Yeah definitely not those clubs.
How do I ask that? Yeah, I am interested, but I don’t want to be rude or be given any two for one cards that some one later finds in my bag. She isn’t drop dead gorgeous but she is dressed up a lot. Am I being solicited? Do I really look familiar or was that just a line? Keep it simple…
-So you… (STOP STOP you might regret this)…come here often?
“No, I work close and so walk by this place all the time”
There was a very pregnant pause and I was more likely to give birth then her judging by our pants.
-So you work at…(don’t say it) Sparkles?
She agreed in the affirmative and here I was on a Tuesday night have dinner with a stripper. Something the religious me would have been freaked out about. But as I fall deeper in love with Jesus and become a follower of the Way I was excited.
Originally we were both sitting sideways in our chairs, but as the food came we turned to face each other and sit like our mothers taught us. I asked a lot of questions.
So how’d you get into it?  You enjoy it?  Is it more than good money?
You come from…Oregon?  Oh, Yugoslavia, well…How long have you been dancing?
What kind of trouble with the law?
I struggled to not sound judgmental and a little caring, but not caring enough to get invited to her work establishment tonight.  I have more ethical issues with “gentleman’s clubs” than I do with zoos.  Sometimes everyone in them is happy and willingly there, but with my luck the first time I went to see my new friend, the club would be raided under Oregon’s newest trafficking laws and that would be a very awkward conversation with almost everyone in my life, especially bosses!
Initially,  every answer she gave I put through the bullshit screens to see if she was telling the truth or feeding me lines or if we secretly met because I was going to start a new ministry based on having dinner Tuesday nights with gentleman’s entertainers.  I was judging every word to listen for a cry for help, checking her arms out for track marks or bruises.  Was she at her rope’s end?
After a few more pregnant pauses though we were smiling and joking and trusting each other with our stories.  We talked about the quality of the food, our favorite beers or drinks– she did say champagne.  I shared some of my story including why I wouldn’t see her at work and while I didn’t mind what she did there was enough corruption and deceit in the industry to keep me away.
Actually I just compared it to a candy store, and having to keep my hands in my pockets.  Again,  not a great illustration,  but she giggled and agreed and said like being in a candy store with no money.
She kept fidgeting and asked to smoke and if I wanted to join.  I accepted but she only had one left.   She checked her phone which kept buzzing and said she should get going.  And we ended with a cordial. “Ok, well nice sitting with you for dinner.”
No invite, no proposition, my work here is done.
-Nice meeting you. Thanks for sharing.
“Stop by in a half hour if you want. I’ll be up second”
Well, she waited till the end, but still I hope she is okay.
So on an ordinary Tuesday, I met two people who made me really think about my worldview. Who is dirty? Who is disabled? Who is sheltered? Who is alone? Who is in real need?
It just might have been me.
It was.

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