I was in Brooklyn Sunday night and went to a Mexican restaurant near my hotel for dinner. Because I was a single diner, the hostess asked if I’d like to sit at the bar. I had a book to read and the lighting at the bar was a bit brighter than the table area, so I agreed.
I sat down at one end of the bar, ordered my food, and sipped at my glass of wine. When I glanced up to look out a nearby window, a street person was there, staring in at me. He was right up against the window, only a few inches from the glass, radiating that kind of aggressive, wild-eyed look that you see from some members of the homeless brigade — the kind that makes you give them a wide berth. That’s weird, I thought.
I went back to reading my book, was served some chips and salsa and began munching away, looked over at the window again . . . and the guy was still there, giving me the hard-eyed once-over. From then on, I became acutely aware of his glare. And as my meal progressed, from time to time I would try to surreptitiously look over to see if he was still there — and he was. And he saw me looking over, every time.
Why was he doing it? Was he trying to guilt-trip me into going outside of the restaurant to give him some money so I could eat my meal without being eyeballed? Was he just bored, and decided to pass the time by playing mind games with a random stranger? For that matter, was he even aware of where he was, and what he was doing? I didn’t know, of course, but I was sure that directly interacting with him, or acknowledging his presence any more than I already had, was not a good idea.
I began to wonder what would happen when I finished my food and had to walk past the guy to get back to my hotel. I didn’t exactly relish the prospect of an unwanted encounter with an apparently angry man in a strange city on a Sunday night. But finally, as I was finishing my food, I took one last glance over — and the man was gone. I quickly got my check, paid it, grabbed my book, and hit the road.
It was one of those unsettling experiences that stick with you and make you wonder about the arbitrary elements of life. I didn’t sleep very well that night. Of course, he probably didn’t sleep very well, either — that night, or any night.