Portland International Airport wasn’t particularly crowded Thursday afternoon.  Outside the gray clouds continued to hover indecisively over the city and the nearby river, uncertain as to whether they would release their water or hold off until later in the day.  Inside, I made my way to the bar of the oh-so-authentic-not Mexican-themed cantina-thingy.

The woman in charge for the shift was busy making drinks behind the bar as I seated myself.  I waited until she wrapped up and made her way over to me, laying out the perfunctory bar napkin to break the ice.  I ask her what she recommends.
Oh good – I’m really a psychic, so let me tell you what you’re having.  She places her knuckles to her temples and closes her eyes.  She’s probably my age or a little younger, with long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail.  I see spicy tacos in your future.  Black beans.  Chips and salsa with a side of guacamole.  She opens her eyes and flashes a confident grin.  But what about to drink, I prompt.  Eyes close again.  I see you drinking a draft pilsner.  Oooooh.  I’m not a beer-guy.  I was thinking more along the lines of a margarita.  Then you should have a double house margarita on the rocks.  Sounds good, but rice instead of beans, please.
She punches in the order and buzzes around to the other half dozen people scattered around the bar.  Two younger couples finishing up beers.  An older gentleman sits down briefly and asks for a Bud light.  
So has it been busy today?  It was swamped earlier for lunch.  And one of my girls decided not to call and not to show up, so it’s been extra crazy.  She never stops moving even as she talks, wetting the rims of margarita glasses before salting them.  I watch as she makes my drink and sets it in front of me.  She banters easily with the waitress on duty.  She strikes me as one an authentically nice person, and simply because she’s extra generous on the shots in my drink, pouring the remains of the near-empty tequila bottle into the glass after my shots.  You make the best of what you’ve got.  Yeah.  We made it through the rush.  We get buy.  
Another woman shows up for shift,  a taller, pale red-head who looks to be in her early 30’s.  The banter continues.  My server nearly convinces the red head to use super glue and another finger to help heal over a paper cut.  She’s half doubled over with laughter at the gullibility of her co-worker.  There is the friendly banter of people accustomed to working with one another but who don’t probably share a lot of the rest of their lives.  The red-head asks about someone, and my server moves to her cell phone and quickly pulls up a text message and reads it off.  I can’t hear everything, but it’s clear it’s referring to someone who’s in the hospital.  Not responsive.  That’s the phrase that grabs my ears.  
The text message is closed and the phone is quickly back beside the register.  The two move around the small bar area with ease.  I chew the spicy chicken tacos as they serve the other customers and begin the process of departing and taking over the bar area, respectively.  There’s a moment of calm as my server is wiping down the area behind the bar counter near me.  So who’s not responsive?  
She pauses.  Clearly, she’s caught off guard.  She’s attempting to compose herself.  Perhaps deciding whether or not to get into this conversation with someone who will be somewhere else in the world within the next hour or so.  Just another customer.  Weighing her emotional reserves.  I wait, chewing.  
My dishwasher was in a car accident on the 26th.  He’s been in the hospital in a coma.  He’s only 20.  He’s a good kid.  A really good kid.  She pauses again, head tilted and down to the side for a few seconds as she regains composure, prevents the tears from leaving her eyes.  They don’t know if he’s going to make it or not.  We’re silent together for a moment, my chewing done for the moment.  I weigh the moment.  She was willing to share this much.  What’s his name, I ask.  Camry.  I’m sorry to hear about this.  I’ll be praying for Camry.  She glances up for a moment, eyes barely touching mine before her gaze continues purposefully around the bar, hands reaching for the damp wipe-rag.  Thanks.  I appreciate that.  Another pause.  My son is 11 years old.  He’s could be a miniature version of Camry.  
Within a few moments the bantering is back again.  We wield our routines and daily comforts as best we can to help us deflect and deal with the hard realities of our world that we are not prepared to handle, that we don’t know how to respond to.  In a few minutes I will board a plane to meet with a congregation looking for a pastor but uncertain about much else.  I’m uncertain if I’m the man for the job.  They’re uncertain about a lot of things I’ve asked of them.  She’s working short of staff and worried in the back of her mind about Camry and her son and all the myriad things she can’t control.  I can’t offer any more control, but I can assure her that somebody else cares, and is willing to pray.  For Camry and children and family and all the things we can’t control, all the many ways we can’t protect them from the dangers of our broken, jagged world.  
I pay my tab and prepare to leave.  She is busy enough not to have to hang around me too much at this point.  The pain is here now.  Her pain.  I hold a portion of it in my hands just as she did.  The knowledge that a 20-year old is hanging by a thread.  The fear every good parent has for their children from time to time.  And in the meantime she has a job to do and people to oversee and a family to think about.  Now is not the time or the place for much more.  For now, her hands just need another surface to wipe, another rim to moisten and salt, another order to fill, another good-humored jest to toss out into the abyss around her.  I call out goodbye.  I’ll pray for Camry.  
Then it was off to my plane and a different city and a group of uncertain people.  But I can’t get Camry out of my mind’s eye.  So if you believe in a God who loves us and hears us, join me and say a prayer for Camry’s healing and recovery and a lifetime yet to give praise for another chance.

3 Responses to “Camry”

  1. Dianne Says:

    I do believe in a God who hears our prayers and loves us and will take care of us. I have said a prayer for Camry and will continue to pray for him. Each night I include prayers for God’s blessings on everyone………I know………that’s a BIG prayer. God is good and I know that he sees the “bigger picture” and knows what’s best for us. That’s a big pill to swallow. I have to remind myself all the time that it’s not “my will be done” but “Thy will be done.”

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    The hardest and most important prayer to pray are the words of Jesus you refer to, in his hour of greatest fear, greatest desperation.  When the temptation to seek His will was strongest, He prayed those beautiful words recorded in Luke 22:42 – “yet not my will, but yours be done”.  Makes a lot clearer what the particular temptation was that he was struggling with in those moments, and probably the temptation he was warning His disciples about in verse 40.

  3. Fantasticas Says:


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