Reason to Interrupt

We were deep into it; I was talking with my hands, sitting there at our wobbly table on the sidewalk amongst the other wine drinkers at dusk.

Three young women, no more than 20, with hip, baggy clothing and patches of skin showing here and there, approached our table, one of them sheepishly in the lead, the others behind her, smiling.

“Excuse me,” she said, probably surprised by my delight at being interrupted.

What could this be about? What couldn’t wait?

I live for these off-script moments among strangers, a few unusual lines to remind us all that we’re very much alive. We can do anything. We are the architects, not the tenants.

I abruptly stopped. So did my drinking buddy. And we turned, our drinks fully cocked in mid-air, ready to save us from any awkwardness that may arise.

“I just wanted to say Happy Pride,” she said. And then more quietly: “I came out today.”

And, behind her, her friends started clapping.

So we started clapping.

“Awesome!!” I shouted, and my knee hit the table, jiggling our water glasses. “AWESOME!” I shouted louder. “Thank you for that! Thank you for telling me! Happy Pride!”

I clapped hard. I clapped above my head and woo-hooed as she turned to her friends, all of us witnesses to an actor’s first act.

The whole patio erupted in applause, a chorus of positive reinforcement cascading the sidewalk, a medley of wine glasses raised in the air, sparkling in the sun.

It’s like we were all hoping for this to happen, all tucked away in our dutiful roles as friends, fathers, and professionals, hidden out of habit, but secretly wishing for something to jar us loose.

That’s what she did: jar us loose.

And for this, we were grateful, Grateful and alive, closer to each other, seeing each other’s faces. Smiling at strangers, toasting with friends.

It felt so good.

To know that one more person was on their path, was — for the first time — able to hear the rhythm of their own pulse on a busy sidewalk in Oakland, California. Loved by friends, breathing fully.

Proud indeed.