It began as a simple business transaction. I was selling something on Craig's List, he emailed to offer a lower price. We went back and forth for over a week. A time to meet was scheduled ~ a parking lot, then something came up, another time was planned, perhaps a coffee shop, then one of us was sick, then someone else offered more money, they never showed up, back to the beginning, the price he offered. A bargain.
Ten days later or so ~ it turned into meeting for food, to exchange money for item ~ I was his guest at the warm cafe in a tiny gray strip mall. Soothing green walls, full of framed photos Lisa has taken, and a game of Cricket silently playing out on the flat screen TV. Surrounded by women in beautiful, bright Abaya dresses ~ huge almond-shaped eyes dark as night and a tiny heart-shaped face smiling at me from behind a chair ~ we sat in the middle of the cafe. A warm and delicious sheezan club with fries and lots of chai to nurse the tiny hangover I was too embarrassed to let him notice. So, rather than hide it, I whispered about it, guiltily looking around at the families; and we laughed.
Everyone who came into the cafe knew him, greeted us, looked deep into my eyes with a smile. The husband-wife team who own the cafe gleaming brightly around us ~ two of the absolutely most beautiful people I have seen in a long time. This place and these people, the closest thing he has to family; the only family he has here. When he wanted more chai, he simply walked back into the kitchen to get it.
The reason for the meeting...money, the item ~ forgotten over pleasant conversation, shadowed slightly by nuances of darker truths. But we laughed.
He glanced up, caught my eye, and quickly looked past me ~ his dark, somber eyes meeting the sunlight that had just peeked out over the gray clouds outside.
"It's like.....I wish to submit my application to you....for your friendship."
He waited. I wasn't sure what to say. I had come only to sell the item, then go home to continue packing. The only thing that came naturally was a quick quip: "Well, that is a 10-page application, in triplicate....and a non-refundable application fee."
No other response necessary. No application necessary.
But, then seriously, and sadly, I explained I am leaving ~ I have nothing to offer. So much nothing, in fact, that I was surprised any one would ask for any of it.
Later, he would send a brief email, "hoping to be honored with my friendship."
The honor ~ was being asked.