May had been a bad month. My winter depression had lingered well into spring. Depression is a night crawler and comes when I have fewer resources to fight it. It leaves me with little more than half-sleep and even that is halved early in the morning, when I climb a cliff of names of people I have wronged in ways large and small. I rise to the day already exhausted by the night and do my best to contain the agitation that accompanies exhaustion. I have enough names on my cliff already. Grace came the other day in the most unexpected way. My morning hangout, the pancake house, moved recently. For years, I have gone there three or four mornings a week to hang out with a group of old guys at the back counter. The new pancake house has no counter and is out of range for some of the guys, but a few of us are carrying on.
This day, I sit alone for a long time at the big table which has replaced the counter. I know most of the staff well, so even alone, I am still in a friendly world. The managers, waitresses and the guys who clear the tables all stop by to say hello. One of the waitresses, Jasmine, who is a student at Northeastern Illinois and works part-time, stops for a little longer than usual and makes my day.
A couple of years back, Jasmine had a table with $75 tab that left her $5. I heard about it from one of the other waitresses, put $5 in an envelope, and wrote something like “on behalf of the rest of humanity” and left it for her unsigned. Neither of us had ever mentioned it. This day, though, she decides to show me something she always keeps with her when she works. It is my note and the $5 bill. I surprise both of us when tears fill my eyes. I am sure she has no idea how much I need this memory this day.
(This is a new category on Longing for a Song. From time to time, I will write short pieces from everyday life in Chicago. These pieces will be indexed in a separate category.)