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the kindness of a tattooed lady

November 10, 2016

She wept alone but not unnoticed, surrounded by parents drinking coffee while their young families played in the morning sun and couples ate breakfast roti procured from the nearby market stalls.

I can’t say if it was the tattooed lady who first noticed her but she was the first to act. A simple act of inquiry. I was too far away to hear them but I imagine that the words “Are you ok?” accompanied the gentle touch on her shoulder.

It was embarrassment that came next, the shame. Thinking that other people now know that you are that person, the one who sits alone in a park beside the Sunday market crying into your latte. Composure quickly regained, assurances are offered

…yes I am fine and thank you no and really I will be ok there is just some stuff that I am dealing with at the moment

are you sure there isn’t anything I can do?

no thank you i will be fine but thank you …. thank you for asking. I’m fine…

The tattooed lady returns to her friends as unconvinced, I think, as I am that she is.

And I am at once overcome with despair and filled with hope and conflicted about what, if anything, I should do or not do. She is not ok, clearly. But that is ok, I think. There are plenty of things in this world that could easily see me sobbing in the street and many that should but that I don’t allow. Perhaps this woman is setting an example of crying into our coffee that we all should follow (though choosing perhaps a soy latte or long black if you are lactose intolerant. No need to create suffering unnecessarily!)

But then, I think, is it my reluctance to also offer myself and my concern about how that may be received that contributes to the current state of the world? I want to give her flowers, to buy her coffee, to invite her to sit with us a while and just be. But we are males and she is female and maybe that might be a cause of her sorrow and I may make it worse not better.

The tattooed lady has filled me with hope and maybe that is what I want for her. But she is crying again and I imagine that having been recognised for what it is by someone other than herself, the sorrow, or the grief or whatever it is that has overtaken her is now undeniable and has a depth and a density that she is no longer able to ignore.

And now I am struggling not to cry. I am discussing the complexities and frustrations of the electricity market in Australia with my brother and I can hear her sorrow rising up around through my words.

She has her head in her hands when the tattooed lady stops both our tears. She has bought the flowers I could not and again I am filled with despair and with hope. I want to believe that those flowers made enough of a difference, maybe not to ease the pain of living but to at least help make it bearable.

I hope they did.

Later as we were getting into the car to leave I saw the tattooed lady. I was clumsy and I think she might have thought for a minute that I meant her harm. Standing in her path all I could manage was to blurt at her an unexpectedly sudden “Thank you.”

“What for?” she asked. “For what you did back there” I replied and fled into my car.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. sara forgione permalink
    November 10, 2016 8:16 am

    What an absolutely beautiful post.

  2. Glenn permalink
    November 11, 2016 3:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing a challenging moment and a good piece of writing. For what it’s worth, I thought you did brilliantly. We all have a role to play don’t we?

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