Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snapshots: Better than Better | Have a Good Day Sun! | Afraid of Heights | Cake

Me: Were you scared at all when you found out?
Rita*: Well no! When the doctor told me about it, I just told him, "That's stupid".
Me: Huh. I don't think I would have been able to say that.
Rita: Well, don't you think it's stupid?
Me: A brain tumor?
Rita: Yeah! I mean, being scared doesn't make something go away.
Me: So how did treating it with contempt work for you?
Rita: Pretty good I guess, it's not in here anymore anyway! (self-consciously smoothing down the back of her hair over the long scar trailing from the nape of her neck into her scalp)
Me: I'm glad you're better.
Rita: Honey, I'm better than better. No go get to work. Come back to my office for lunch sometime. We'll clear off my desk, put down a tablecloth and order in and have a picnic.
*Coworker, and survivor of a brain tumor diagnosed in December 2007
I watched my first sunset on the beach last Saturday night, "alone" in the La Jolla Cove. I'm learning that alone isn't a state of being, it's a state of mind. If that's true, then I shared the sunset with a father and son and here's what they were talking about...
Dad: See? There it goes! Say buh-bye sun! (or maybe it was "son")
Boy: (loud enough so the sun could hear him) BUH-BYE SUN! I'LL SEE'll seE YOU TOMORROW DAY!!
Dad: Yup, because right now it's going to bed.
Dad: A good night, you mean.
Son: (thinking, then saying with conviction) Sure.

There was an old man about 4 feet away from me who eased himself down on the low wall along the walkway and sat with such a hunch that his eye level was even with top of the cane he used, held erect and steady with his hand atop it. He looked sooooo lonely and it ached somewhere beneath my collarbone to watch him sit there alone waiting for the sun to set. I'd almost decided to go over there, but rethought the action; not all those who are alone are lonely, just as not all who wander are lost. Then it occurred to me, that it was I who was a little lonely and I got up and sat beside him.
Meg: Excuse me, I'm watching the sunset alone, and you didn't look like had any company either and I figured... (I sort of started to lose my nerve a little, though not usually shy)...
Man: Are you afraid of heights?
Me (caught a little off guard): A little, why?
Man: I'm pleased with myself, because I am afraid of heights and this is the closest I've gotten to these cliffs by the beach before.
Me: That's pretty good! (looking over the side of where we were situated safely and really not that far up at all) I'm impressed.
Man: Well thank you, but you shouldn't be. To be honest I was just tired and didn't want to go any farther so I stopped here.
Me: Still counts.
Man: I s'pose. (smiles)
Me: Would you like to watch the sun set together?
Man: I'm sorry, I'd love to, but I'm meeting my wife at a restaurant a little farther down the way.
I was surprised that he had a date waiting for him; I'd misjudged his situation. He got up, smiled, and started walking away and I felt a pang at being the one left. I sadly watched him walk away but after he took a few shuffling steps away from me, I couldn't hang onto my self-pity another moment, so pleased was I to know that he had someone and somewhere. The ache let up and I smiled to myself. My ocean sunset was, as you can imagine or have see for yourself at one time or another, marvelous. It burns red just before it dips down to the water, I imagine that were I closer to it, I could hear it sizzle as it hit the water; the white light reflecting on the water just below the sun moves to-and-fro as if it were simmering, making the metaphor more substantial.
Why one should never underestimate the power of the chocolate and coffee bean to remedy a situation.
I went to a crowded coffee shop appropriately called "The Living Room;" it was furnished with old chaise lounges, velvet parlor sofas, and mismatched dining sets. I claimed a table and began to write letters to close friends and family. Soon after, two older ladies came in and settled just behind me. No sooner were they there than they began to complain about the overly-trendy crowd, lack of space, and shabby furniture. As one of them incessantly bemoaned her surroundings, her friend had enough sense to take some kind of action...
Lady 1: I'm going to go buy us some dessert
Lady 2: It's 10:00 in the morning!
Lady 1: So what? What would you like?
Lady 2: How should I know?
Lady 1: Would you like to come to the front and look?
Lady 2: No, just pick something you think I would like.
Lady 1: Something with chocolate in it?
Lady 2: No.
Lady 1: What about pie or a tart or something?
Lady 2: No.
Lady 1: A danish, croissant, muffin?
Lady 2: I don't KNOW! I'll just have whatever you get.
The first old lady got up to make her purchase, mumbling a little as she went, and returned five minutes later carrying two (mismatched) plates with large pieces of chocolate cake and forks sliding precariously on each. She set down the plates, and wordlessly they began to eat the cake. I got up to get a glass of water in order to better view the scene, I got the cup and glanced over. They were sitting straight, just as proper ladies should, I smiled and looked down to focus on what I was doing. Once I'd filled my glass, I squeezed a wedge of lemon into it and started back to my table. When I took in the ladies a second time, their faces were significantly closer to the plates and their forks scraped against their dishes as they collected the final morsels of their morning dessert. I stifled a giggle and sat back down to listen...
Lady 2: The lighting isn't very good here, is it?
Lady 2: Though, I'd say they make up for it with their food. I always say that dessert should precede a meal, that way if you run out of room you don't miss the best part.
Lady 1: I like the music. (it was classical, maybe Wagner)
Lady 2: Yes, it's actually very good (I hear her fork clinking on the plate again, though I know the cake is no longer). They should still replace the furniture in here, but my chair is surprisingly comfortable.
Lady 1: How have you been feeling lately?
Lady 2: (ignoring the question) Thank you for the cake.
Lady 1: I ordered coffee too, but I forgot to make it decaf.
Lady 2: (threatening to relapse into grumpiness) Oh, well I'll never get to sleep tonight, the last time I drank...
A server approaches the table and says
Server: Here are your coffees ladies, and I'm sorry but we just ran out of regular so I brought you decafs until we get another pot of regular brewed.



Heather Lea said...

LOVED the post. Really- keep writing. you see things and hear what people normally overlook or are too busy focused on ourselves (me included) to notice.

you're wonderful. I picked up Steinbeck's "East of Eden" today... it's a bit intimidating. what do you think of it?

also, i'm calling your mother soon. maybe tomorrow.

And I Love you.

nonfiction hottie said...

Thank you for writing these stories. The last one, with the two ladies should very much be expanded. I think O. Henry would have liked it.

Davenport Dame said...

love love love the post.

The sunset story was poignant.

Isn't it strange how you feel when you're alone like that? Not sad, exactly, but not happy.