Love shows up in the strangest places.
It’s the Monday before Christmas and I’m walking down 3rd Avenue. I have a chesty cough and my chapped hand clings to a prescription for antibiotics.
“Bronchitis,” the doctor told me matter-of-factly after listening to one, heavy breath with his cold stethoscope pressed to my back. He wished me a “Merry Christmas” as he ushered me out of the exam room and into the hallway where he pulled another chart from the cracked, plastic bracket on the wall. — They’re running out of room at the inn.
On the avenue, I let out a good, phlegm-y cough. My lungs loosen up, and suddenly, a good energy closes in on me. Bay Ridge shoppers scatter in every direction, colorful tubes of wrapping paper poking out from the tops of their over-sized shopping bags. A man in a JETS sweatshirt yells into his cellphone in a thick Brooklyn accent, “Whatddya mean, yous got the fuckin’ Star Wars pajamas? I just waited in line a fuckin’ hour for these fuckin’ things! Jesus Christ Lorraine.” He lets out a sigh, and then, he laughs and raises his right thumb and forefinger to his lips, taking a final pull off his cigarette before flicking it to the curb in an explosion of sparks. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ.”
An Arab kid holds the door for me as I walk into Rite Aid on 78th Street, and, when I thank him, he tells me, “No problem lady. Don’t worry about it,” like he’s a member of the Rat Pack. In the line to pick up my prescription, there’s a toddler in a two-tiered stroller shoving Fruit Loops wildly into his face. He smiles at me, rainbow sludge oozing out of the corners of his mouth. I wave at him covertly and when he laughs his mother turns around to look at me suspiciously.
“What’s your last name, honey?” the pharmacy cashier asks me when I finally get to the front of the line. I tell her and she lets out a laugh like tires on gravel. “You Irish, you’ve got the craziest names! What’s your first name honey?” I don’t bother telling her it’s Scottish. “Sarah.” She hands me a white paper bag with a yellow sticker. “Feel better honey. Happy Holidays. Next in line, come on over honey!”
At the produce place on the corner of Ovington Avenue, I’m in line behind a Greek lady who buys four pints of peeled garlic cloves from the Chinese woman wearing blue, latex gloves. They both laugh, sharing some sort of inside joke. — And, I wonder what the fuck she’s planning on cooking, because whatever it is — I want some.
Suddenly, all these little things feel like something big. And, that’s how I know love is edging it’s way back into my life. It always begins with small, innocuous moments. Joy hidden in the bits and pieces of our humanity. I step back and observe it — my Brooklyn. I remind myself that I don’t have to be anything. I’ll just watch this beauty fall around me. And, it doesn’t mean I have to stay here, it just means I have to be here now.
Look. Customers sipping their coffee. My cat curled up on top of my feet. Listen. The murmur of my parent’s conversation downstairs. Sirens wailing out on their way to a fire. Breathe. Someone’s making pasta sauce and its aroma drifts through the window, out onto the street. The clean scent of the pine wreath my mother has fastened to the front door.
I haven’t bought a single gift. Depressed and bed ridden does not a good Christmas-shopper make. But, on the walk home, I convince myself that three days will be plenty of time. I don’t mind waiting in lines. Would you believe I like standing there, watching everyone else’s story unfold? Because, I do. — Especially when I am tired of replaying my own.
I arrive home and I find my mother has left apples out for me on the kitchen counter. She’s placed them neatly on a paper towel in front of the coffee pot.
Love isn’t always wrapped up under the tree.
It’s the kid who’s getting two pairs of Star Wars pajamas this year. It’s an Arab boy with the swagger of Frank Sinatra. It’s macerated Fruit Loops staining the corners of a shrewd toddler’s mouth — and it’s the mother who’ll fiercely protect him. It’s a cashier who calls everyone “Honey.” It’s a Greek lady with a fuck-ton of garlic and it’s a Chinese lady with blue gloves who knows something I don’t.
It’s making my way back home.
And, it’s finding apples waiting for me on the kitchen counter.
Artwork: “Apple Heart”; http://buhrena.deviantart.com/art/Apple-Heart-178646080