One of my great pleasures as a housewife is lunch. Lunch is a silent affair eaten off my Grandmother’s Rosenthal China if I’m home, or if I go out it’s typically to an ethnic restaurant where the tab is $10 or less, the sanitation may be questionable, and the food is authentic.
Last week I was craving birria tacos. Birria is a slow roasted goat meat that is very flavorful without being gamey. There’s one taco shack (and I mean shack) in Hollywood where the Birria is consistently good. So off I went.
I had a copy of The Fourth Hand, a twenty dollar bill in my hip pocket and a huge appetite. I pulled up to Cactus and got Doris Day Parking. I ordered two birria tacos and one chicken along with a Coca Cola, I claimed a small table and sat down to read my book.
Then she looked at me. The homeless lady with the shaved head and recent pedicure. The homeless lady who wore layer upon layer of clothing in the hot Hollywood sun.
She asked, “Do you know what time it is?”
I replied, “it’s just after one.”
“Oh,” She said, “thank you” and she went back to nervously tapping her foot and whispering to herself. She was trying to calm herself, I believe.
After a few moments she interrupted my thoughts. “Excuse me, Miss?” She began, “could you tell me if it’s one o’clock in the day or in the evening?” She appeared genuinely confused.
“It’s the daytime.” I said, and sort of gestured at the sky, “it’s lunch, are you hungry?”
She nodded at me and whispered “yes”, and I was prepared to buy her a taco plate. I was wholly unprepared for what happened next.
My number was called, and when I got up to get my taco plate, she came and sat at my table. Where I had left my book. I was ravenous, and the plate was beautiful and alluring, but sitting at my table was a woman who people don’t make eye contact with, covered with dirt and urine, she was unable to tell night from day.
I gave her my plate, and reminded G-d that he doesn’t care how we feel about our mitzvot. Because I didn’t feel good about it. I felt hungry and put upon. I felt manipulated and angry, and as I went to roll my eyes to the sky, I saw that across the street from us was Project Angel Food.
We support Project Angel Food. During the last twenty years I’ve done everything from 5k’s to food delivery, to Divine Design. Project Angel Food delivers meals to homebound men and women with AIDS, they do so without judgement, and they give caretakers their lives back.
My lunch date was as critically ill as anyone with AIDS.
My lunch date was someone’s daughter.
So I ordered three more tacos and a Coke. Then I waited with my companion while she savored the food and continued her battle with confusion. I sat in silence eating my lunch with a woman whose name I don’t know.
It doesn’t really matter how I felt.
It was the right thing to do.