Meeting her was like being handed an armload of bricks. Surprising, heavy, and requiring concentration to keep the bricks from tumbling everywhere. She was sturdy and strong. Like she was giving the world the finger, and the world was cowering. And yet… and yet, her inner chaos spilled over on everyone she touched.
I had noticed her for years, only ever at the market. She was eye-catching: tall, broad, non-conformist, and always purposefully raiding booths at the traveling market.
Then one day, we crossed paths. Literally. And she stopped me. “Who are you?” she asked with bright eyes.
She was thrilled with my stumbling Arabic, my height (we stood eye-to-eye), and my nationality. We exchanged numbers and parted ways. I walked home, a little dazed by my ability to attract strong women who longed to take me under their wing. How many times had this happened before?
She and I messaged back and forth for a couple of weeks. She had a situation costing her a lot of time and energy. “Pray for me,” she said.
Last week, I messaged her. “Are you going to the market? Can we meet for churros?”
I found her at the market, rooting through piles of merchandise, somehow sniffing out deals I had already walked by once.
When she reached out to hug me, body odor clogged my throat and I tried not to breathe. It wasn’t her, but her clothes, I thought. She might not have access to a washer. “SHE’S AMERICAN!” she blared at the market vendor in a voice as big as she was.
She insisted on paying for the churros. “It’s all the same.” She waved me off as I fought back. We found a table and she started talking. Loudly. As she told me her problems, neighboring tables shot us glances.
I was hyper-aware of the intrusive volume as I munched on churros and wiped my fingertips on the gray churro wrap, but it took most of my concentration to follow her story. I felt like I was juggling those bricks now, trying to keep all of my senses from screaming at me while I focused on her words. There were a lot of them. Both senses and words.
When she told me why her marriage had crumbled, she shrugged. “We get along fine now. But you know, we were too young to know how to solve our problems.” Another shrug. Another middle finger to the world of pain.
An airborne brick was about to land on my foot. What should I say? Was she anything but “fine”? Even with all of the pain she had just detailed? Had anyone in her life ever let her be anything but “fine”?
I pressed my greasy fingers against the paper again, admiring the pristine fingerprints I left behind, dark against the pale gray. My fingerprints. Beautiful. Special.
And the woman sitting beside me left her own greasy fingerprints on everything she touched. Also beautiful. Also special.
“Was it hard to relate to his family?” I asked finally.
And when I looked up from our fingerprinted churro paper, my breath caught. This “load of bricks” in front of me was dabbing her eyes. She wasn’t crying. Not quite. But I had touched something still raw. I sat quietly, ignoring the cooling churros. Ignoring the eavesdroppers around us. She didn’t say more, and I didn’t pry. Our friendship was too new for that.
But I walked home with this God-given reminder that I had just had greasy churros with God’s image bearer, His beautiful creation. Her wounds and scars would never be able to disguise that.