All We Needed Was a Smile

I have no problem at all scribbling down on paper the extent of my madness for all the world to see, in as many honest ways as I can. But, for some reason I have a serious problem talking about myself to total strangers. I recently did a podcast about the people I missed, the people I saw on my daily excursions to get provisions. I didn’t know their names, didn’t know their lives….and with any and every opportunity we had, I never shared my name or my life either.

I ventured out today. This agoraphobic was making great strides to heal himself of this wretched affliction at just the time the pandemic started. But, I kept telling myself,  “The first the moment the stay at home orders are lifted I’m going out again.”

So, out again I went. For 1825 days I have left my home for 30 minutes, dashing to get what I need, smile at whom I meet, then rush back here to keep me clean and horror free of whatever darkness had in store for me.

May sound poetic, but….that is the leash that I was bound by. I could only go out for what I needed, then hurry home in search of refuge. My leash tugged at by my agoraphobia, should I even dare to take one step different than I had the day before.

If we can metaphorically say, my leash went a bit loose and I took the opportunity to run from my master’s grasp.

I didn’t dash to the store. With a languid and and sinewy stride, I slowed my pace so that I could gaze at something other than my feet beneath me. I lifted my chest, breathed in the air, sucked in the sun, felt it beaming from me, felt my whole self just stop right there…..My limbs tingled, the hairs on my arm were goose bumping. My eyes, as big as they already are, were wide with interest. I wanted to see everything.

It was a beautiful spring day in Central Florida. 75 degrees and no humidity. And halfway on my path to the store, when once you would find me darting by like a flash, I found myself stopped dead in my own treads.

It was the sun, I thought. It felt so warm. It was that stretch of meadow, I thought. It looked like the biggest croquet course in the world. I could see myself over there whacking with a mallet, utterly drunk and loving every minute of it. Or perhaps it was simply that I stopped in the middle of a very nice moment to enjoy it, rather than fear it.

So I strolled slowly to the store, feeling every bit of sun drop that splashed on my skin, scanning the grass for clover flowers as I daintily passed through the meadow (so as not to crush any that might be blooming soon).

My ears caught the quick stabbing of a woodpecker’s beak against an oak tree. I could see his spotted, black and white back, his red head banging itself against the bark of the oak. Man, was he loud.

A dozen unknown bugs darted around me. I couldn’t tell if they were applauding me or demanding that I leave their grassy haven. But, none of them stung me, so I guess I have my answer.

I hit the Citgo to get my cigarettes (there’s a great rockabilly song title there just waiting to be had) and found my usual ma’am right where she should be….behind plexiglass.

I wasn’t sure what to call her just now, while describing her. Woman? Lady?

No, I’m from the south. Ma’am is the highest in respect. So, we shall call her that.

We had a quick talk, she said, “See you next time, my love,” and off I went to Target. I saw my bread guy, face covered with a mask. I could hear him say quite loudly, “Been a long time, my friend!” Yes, it had. For nearly 10 years I’ve passed this man on a regular basis. My agoraphobia didn’t keep that from happening. The virus did, though.

I went to the check out to find my darling, old dear with the blue hair greeting me with her whole body just all covered in gloves, mask, and some weird plastic covering. I could hear her giggle and say, “Not quite like old times, but not so bad, really. Nice to see you!”

And as I left, I passed the Puerto Rican woman who is always the stand in clerk when my darling blue hair isn’t there. Dawned with a mask I saw her wave. And oh, how big her smile must have been. Because her eyes had this genuine, beautiful squint that surpassed her mask.

I walked out of the store with what I needed, headed home. (Think about that, now! I left home with what I needed).

To them, I’ve always been a friendly face that shows up everyday. That’s all. And I’ve never had the desire to whip out a “MAD MAN KNITTING” sticker, give my elevator speech, and hope they buy from me.


There is a certain beauty in finding something as simple as a shared smile with people you meet every day. It’s so simple, but it really is so effective, isn’t it? That one gesture you make can carry so much weight. So, when you feel plunged into darkness, you find yourself…..well, just, looking for an old familiar face. So….we were so happy to see each other again.

We know nothing about each other’s lives. We share only familiarity. We share only a familiar smile.

And somehow, that is all we needed from each other….

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  1. Ahh. I need a moment to catch my breath. So beautiful. Connecting to others is a visceral need in human beings. Your forays have made connections. Though they aren’t deep. they are meaningful.

    Congratulations on taking your time, relishing your trip. Bravo to you! That’s an amazing accomplishment. Is it possible your quarantine has chipped away some of your agoraphobia? I hope so.

  2. I so love this post! And the pic of you with a smile that warms the heart. While I am not agoraphobic, I do have my own demons and anxieties that I deal with. Today you have so hit the nail on the head. That is a very large part of the reason why I venture out 5 days a week to go to work. Working from home was never a personal option for me. I have to, need to, feel that familiarity, see that mask hidden smile, return a greeting spoke my way as another masked face hurries by. There’s something reassuring in that familiarity….

    Thank you for making my day brighter by sharing the brightness in yours. 🙂

  3. I think you hit on it! It’s not that I went out all that much before the virus (no immune system here), but it’s going out now and then, seeing those familiar faces and smiles that are missing – driving me nutzo! Thank you, I needed your post today and that smile of yours, too ~ Have a good one!

  4. I love this post. I am old enough to recognize that each of us has our own battle to fight but that picture of you today is beautiful. You look “at ease” and I mean that in every good sense of the phrase. At ease with the day, at ease with your world and most importantly, at ease with your self. Life is made of small steps, a good life is made when most of them are going forward.

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