An Open Letter To The Woman Who Waited On Me At McDonald’s This Morning

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An Open Letter To The Woman Who Waited On Me At McDonald’s This Morning

It was a hard morning.

I had just dropped my daughter off at my estranged husband’s house where he now lives without me. A house where he regularly brings new and varied women to spend the night. A house where I planted tulips that I will never see bloom. A house where I left all my furniture when I moved out because it was quicker and easier.

It is still hard for me to look him in the face, let alone talk to him after all that we have been through in the past four months. I am so bitterly disappointed in him for giving up on himself and our family. For giving up on me and our relationship. My feelings for him are confusing and complicated. Mostly I am sad. Sometimes I am angry. I am often both at the same time.

I steel myself for the quick discussion we must have about our divorce. I clench my jaw and avert my eyes so that I do not start crying. My tone is direct and businesslike, my words clipped, devoid of emotion. If I venture away from the script in my head, I am afraid that I will make a fool of myself. I am afraid that I will lose control. I am afraid of the rage inside of me, bubbling just below the surface.

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As soon as our business is done, I walk quickly back to my car and drive away before my husband can see that tears are already streaming down my face. I do not know exactly why I am crying, but I do know that my Zoom therapy session cannot come soon enough. I am tired of crying. I am tired of being sad so much. I am just tired. I need to get my mental health back on track before the divorce is final and I lose my medical benefits that are tied to my husband’s job.

I think that maybe a little caffeine will help. I think that maybe a large sugar-free vanilla iced coffee will be just the thing to bring me out of my funk and render me able to face another day. It can’t hurt. All the way to McDonald’s I cry. I scream. I hate my husband but I can’t stop thinking about him. I want to stop. I really do. I just don’t know how.

As I approach the drive-through window, I pull my mask up over my nose and mouth and dab my eyes dry with a rough paper napkin I manage to find in the console. At least the mask covers my snotty nose. I order into the microphone, trying hard to steady my voice.

I pull two dollars and twelve cents out of my wallet and hand it to you. You take one look at my bloodshot eyes and ask, “Are you okay, honey?”

I pause for a long moment and then reply honestly. “No, I’m not. I’m having a rough day.”

“Me too. It’s hard. I hope the rest of your day is better.”

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“Thanks. You too.”

Your kindness chokes me up and I start crying again but this time my tears are happy ones. You didn’t have to say anything to me. You didn’t have to do anything but your job. You didn’t have to notice that I needed someone to ask me how I was, but you did.

I don’t know why your day was rough. I have no idea what you are going through. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, maybe you fear for your health waiting on endless lines of selfish people trying to get their coffees and Big Macs. Maybe you are stressed out about the violence in our city. Maybe the protests and curfews have affected you on a personal level that I cannot understand. Maybe you are f*cking tired of working at a job that doesn’t pay nearly enough for all the BS you put up with, but you just can’t find anything else.

Whatever your story is, you didn’t place any of that on me. You didn’t use that moment to complain or bemoan your fate. You were selfless.

You were not just an employee of a giant, faceless corporation, you were an actual human and you reached out to another actual human. You made me feel less alone for a minute. You gave me hope that my day actually might be okay after all. You reminded me that someone out there cares.

Thank you for that. Please don’t ever stop caring. We need more caring in the world. There are people hurting worse than I am who need to be asked how they are. They need to have their faith in humanity restored. They need someone, anyone to care.

They need you.

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Alecia Kennedy is a trader, writer, photographer, truth-seeker, and all-around curious person. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.