My grandmother told me to make sure I always looked presentable when I left the house because a person never really knew who they’d run into while they were going about their daily lives. She must have told me that over a decade ago and it stuck, because today I made sure I had perfect hair before I went to the dentist. That sounds a little ridiculous, I know, but I could have easily been killed on the way to the dentist and I wasn’t about to check out with bad hair.

While in the waiting area an elderly man came over and sat next to me. An entire waiting room full of chairs and he sits directly next to me. At first, I was entirely annoyed because not only did I feel my personal space was being violated, but also because I could see him staring at me from the corner of my eye and I couldn’t focus on the book I was trying to read. But after a while I noticed his breathing changed and he had his head down and started sniffling a lot. I knew immediately he was sad because when someone is sad you can feel it, almost like stepping outside and being able to sense an oncoming storm, it emanates from all parts of their body until the room has the same kind of heaviness they’re feeling.

He got up and went out into the hallway and when he came back he stood in front of me until I looked up from my book. He apologized for staring and told me his wife was also a redhead and had big waves that would fall over one eye like mine. I told him she sounded like an absolute smoke show. He found that funny and sat back down next to me.

“I’d call her cyclops. I could never see her left eye, so I’d call her cyclops and she’d always stick her tongue out at me.”

He got caught up in the moment and his mind trailed off to that place where you can’t reach people. It’s almost like they leave their bodies momentarily to slip off into a memory or a thought, and although they’re right next to you, they couldn’t be further away. His name was then called and he came back to life. He apologized again and said she’d been gone for so long that he’d forgotten the little things and it overwhelmed him, but it was nice to be reminded and to be comforted by them. Before he walked off he turned and called me cyclops, and I of course stuck my tongue out at him.

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