On the corners of 206 & 8, I find an oasis. Foil-wrapped dark chocolate. Fair trade coffee. Translucent beads turned into fancy bracelets. The store feels like a haven against the desolate peaks and valleys.
I run a finger across the smooth rim of a teapot, glazed cobalt-blue.
I shuffle around silently, absorb the beauty of curated things.
Just as I begin to wonder who runs the place, a woman emerges.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
I peel my eyes off the snack shelves, find myself taken aback because no less than twenty facial piercings cut into the woman’s flesh…lips, ears, and tongue. She’s got this thick, ashen plait running down the center of her head, sides fully buzzed.
I play cool, act aloof. It’s not like I haven’t seen her type before.
“My phone just died. You sell maps?” My request feels sheepish—what kind of erudite woman forgets to charge up before a four-hour ride?
“We have everything but maps,” she chuckles.
I nod and wander off to another corner of the store to delight myself in soap which smells of roses and pineapples. Peek out the back window to an empty road.
I find roasted pepitas to quell my cravings, make my way to her register and compliment the store.
“206 East will get me back to Connecticut, right?”
She smirks before she offers me simple directions.
“I grew up in Westport,” she says.
“What made you come here?”
“Just wanted to get away from people,” she divulges.
Ann Voskamp tells us “Not one thing in your life is more important than figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.”
Can’t be more than a few hundred folk living where we stand.
“We just want to make everyone feel good when they visit, to feel welcome,” she tells me.
This place may be the only hub for laughter and hope.
I tell her I can’t function without the calming water of the Long Island Sound.
What broke her enough to run to the valleys of Upstate New York?
Don’t know what hurt her, but she mustered up enough courage to begin again…
Old scars can break open like fresh wounds and your unspoken broken can start to rip you wide open
I’m coastal city woman who finds pleasure walking up 5th Avenue, a newly-purchased book in hand, wandering the halls of The Met.
My eye a camera, panning left and right, absorbing old art, watching and listening with hundreds of others.
Kendall’s content living amidst abandoned farmhouses and rusted-out silos.
“I spent a lot of time in that mall of yours when I was homeless.” I imagine a late-night security guard sending her into ice-cold winter wind.
From affluence to homelessness? Don’t know her reasons. Don’t know her particulars.
Rejection or intolerance. Grossly misunderstood. Rebellion?
What I know is we’ve all anesthetized varied forms of brokenness.
I know the wind of exuberance, that it shook me up enough to leave painful words and actions behind.
I know how hard it is to make a single bleeding choice when five other options seem just as good.
I know what it feels like to walk into the Devil’s Den of fear. I know how God’s unmerited grace licked the wounds of my rebellious actions.
But I don’t know Kendall’s full story.
Maybe it’s been drowned in sufficient grace.
“Give my love to the ocean.” Her steel-blue eyes get watery, even while exuding quiet serenity.
I shake her hand, offer God’s blessings. A flush of rose warmth highlights her round face.
“Enjoy the journey,” she says.
I rev up the engine, return to that desolate snake of a road which leads me eastward, trying to make an effort to appreciate this ultra-quiet place.
Kendall and I met at the crossroads of grace and brokenness, of this I am thankful.