I walk into the Nordstrom Café every morning, ready to order two iced teas (for double the caffeine), and there's Kamal (not his real name) to greet me with a warm smile. He asks how my day is going so far, sometimes even coming around the coffee bar to listen intently to my venting about the freelance-writer life or which Kardashian bugs me most. In return, he tells me all about his side of things: his toddler son's temper tantrums, how tough it is to take college courses in your 20s with two kids. We met about a year ago when we were both having a terrible day: Kamal had a last-minute job interview and only his Nordstrom tee to wear; I was in the midst of a work project that felt like it was going nowhere. Much to my delight, he opted to stay at Nordstrom so he could go back to school, and I soon signed my first book deal. We celebrated together—he was the first person I told about my book, and I was one of the first people to see his enrollment letter to community college. One day recently I was feeling really down, and out of nowhere, Kamal left his café post and hugged me. I've never told him my last name, yet he knows me—from the milestones to the minutiae. Sure, he's a total stranger, but when he asks how I'm doing, he actually wants to know.


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