Saturday, January 14, 2017
THE JERUSALEM CAFE
We both witnessed it.
We were both there.
But, only one of us saw it coming.
It was not me.
I try to be aware. Not just aware, but fully conscious. Mindful.
Conscious of energy. Life. The exchange between me and other people. Animals. The universe. God.
I've always felt the need to be aware, but never enough to be awake. However, in the past five or six years this intentional journey of spirit has shaken and waved me back and forth across the doorways and windows of what is really happening. It is all alive. Connected. Living. Breathing. Waiting for us to pay attention and join in the dance.
Sometimes I peer at it through open blinds or through a veil and other times I am courageous and walk through the threshold and plug into it. More often, of late, I am distracted with depression, anxiety, or some political panic brought on by social media.
This particular day, winter gray, damp, breezy, I felt on. Lit. As if I expected miracles around every other corner.
Jerusalem Cafe. Miracles happen here, mostly in the form of affordable tasty Mediterranean cuisine, but often in the shape of a shiny Middle Eastern smile from the raven-haired young lady working the register. I've never seen such joy and, I suppose, love emanate from anyone. Her energy captures you like a white fitted sheet blowing in the wind from a clothesline. Others notice and they comment to her about her light.
Today would include such an encounter, but first, I would wade through a tiny sea of Arabic speaking immigrants that were dressed different from me and spoke in rhythms and dialects I did not understand. They had all noticed as I pushed the glass door open, entered and wiped my feet on the black rubber mat.
As if my eyes were fixed on Jerusalem itself, I began walking through the middle of the restaurant toward the counter to order and my familiar unknown pal. Looking down, I captured glimpses of Mediterranean fare from others' plates; falafels and shawarma on the right of me and on the left, an older gentleman in a gray business suit with darkish skin, steel wool beard, and covered head was hunched over a saucer of tabouli and pizza-sized unleavened bread.
I stared at his plate longer than I should, looked up slightly and met his black eyes.
He caught me.
He was expecting me.
His energy hooked me and held me in place. In what I remember as slow motion, he moved. His arms came from his lap and his knuckled fingers grasped the flat bread. My peripheral field of vision blurred as he looked up and into my eyes with an Al Pacino-glare and tore the bread perfectly in two.
Awake, I knew something familiar was about to happen. I received the piece of bread with both hands. Our eyes locked and in my head, the words I had muttered many times in church, usually on the first Sunday of the month echoed, “Thanks be to God."
I pulled off a bite of bread and slowly put it in my mouth. It was chewy, almost warm.
With clarification, I spoke out loud to him, "We're breaking bread."
He nodded a bit and smiled, "Yes, just like biblical times."
He then took a bite and we chewed and nodded our heads at each other, eyes fixed on the moment. I swallowed and nodded again.
Feeling the transaction was complete, I turned and walked away and life’s video began to roll at 1x speed again. I ordered my usual from the young lady at the counter, paid, and turned back to take a seat.
Immediately, I looked at the corner table where my new friend was sitting only to find it empty. I searched toward the door and through the thinning crowd. He was nowhere in sight. I never heard the front door open and no cars were driving away.
I sighed and breathed in the remaining cords of his energy grateful for consciousness.
Thanks be to God. Thanks be to the Jerusalem Cafe.