An apparition? A mirage? Both? Neither?
She was wearing a gossamer-thin blouse and jeans and came floating across the parking lot like an apparition. I was sitting at an outdoor table, drinking coffee from a paper cup. As she headed straight toward me I figured I was in for an adventure, and quietly wondered what kind.
“Do you have a cell phone?” she asked, her blue eyes barely visible behind her sunglasses. The strong Florida breeze was whipping around her blond hair.
Yes, I told her, and she asked if she could make a phone call on it. “What kind of phone call?” was all I could think to ask. And that started her going.
Her husband had driven off with all their possessions, she said. They had been doing their laundry in a Laundromat when he stormed off. They had been married a year and nothing like this had ever happened to them, she said.
She started crying. “Nothing is working out right now,” she said, through her tears. “We just lost our new house. My catering business is really hurting and Josh can’t find a publisher for his books.
Her first husband had been killed in a roadside accident two years ago, she said. “I watched the whole thing. He stopped to help someone change a tire and another car came along and killed him. Josh and I were writing a book about the incident when he asked me to marry him. I didn’t know what to think.”
Now they had no home, no money, and no prospects. “What’s wrong with people today?” she cried. “Everyone is so cruel, so uncaring. We haven’t had a place to stay for three days and the motels are all full. Those that aren’t want $100 a night and we can’t afford that.”
She got on my cell phone and called Josh, but was quickly transferred into voice mail. “Josh, honey, where are you? What’s wrong, sweetheart? Whatever it is, we can work it out. We’ve worked out bigger problems before. I love you, honey. Please come back to me. I’m sitting here at Panera’s with a nice man who’s lending me his cell phone. Please come back to me.”
The tears were rolling down her face. She handed me the cell phone back and left with a “Thank you.” The last I saw of her she was walking across the mall parking lot, the tails on her blouse blowing in the breeze, the sun reflecting off her yellow hair. I never learned her name. When you’re broke the world can be a cruel place.