<Wednesday evening, December 28>
Somewhere between 9AM and 12 noon today, I went from zero to see-you-next-Tuesday in about six seconds flat. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I know one thing to be true above all others when I’m facing Crimson – the name I’ve taken to calling my less-than-famous, cut-a-bitch moments: The last thing I need to do is speak.
Not a single word.
And on top of it all, there seemed to a completely unauthorized Occupy Sinuses movement going on by a baby elephant in my head. Definitely a fucked-up way to be going about one’s day.
So I headed home, threw on my cold weather running gear and bolted out the front door. A few things happened.
First, I queued up a playlist fueled by the likes of Ratt, Metallica, and White Zombie. Seemed fitting.
Then, about 300 yards down the road, I busted my ass something fierce on the ice. Fuck it – got back up. Ow, ow, ow.
And then…it all just fell away. Seems that I ran just about 4 miles in about 35 minutes – pretty much a land speed record for me, ass-busting and all.
Given that the baby elephant was still taking up unauthorized residence in my sinuses, I headed to the grocery store to grab something with a ‘D’ in the product name. An eviction attempt. Putting the elephant on notice.
Sidebar: To all of the fuckups who have snorted or utilized over-the-counter medications designated as “decongestants” in an off-label, non-prescribed manner, I’d like to thank you. It’s rare that I’m given the opportunity to see what my life would have been like if I’d opted for a career on the pole snorting blow off a coworker’s ass and getting umpteen free rides in a black and white cab. It’s because of you that I’m made to feel like a criminal every time I need to evict a small baby elephant from my sinuses, as the pharmacies now keep these (fictional) elephant-killing medicinals under lock-and-key behind The Counter. I have to stand in line, show identification, sign a form with my name, date, and for some fucking reason – the time – in order to pay my $7.29 and get my damned decongestants. So, I have a request that you start huffing the fumes from smoldering Glenn Beck books and Justin Bieber CDs, as if it’s this hard for me to get decongestants, shitty literature and music should have the same controls placed upon them for the good of the American public.
But I digress.
I procured my D-drug redemption card because we can’t trust you with the box of choice and took my place in the six-deep line at the pharmacy. I was freezing, truth be told. Funny what happens to your body temperature when you go from an 8-mile-per-hour pace to dead still with a breeze kicking off the linoleum.
And then I saw him.
I thought that perhaps I’d cut him off, the old man who towered at least a foot above me who stood to my left. But another glance told me no, he was standing over to the side of the aisle with his cart. Waiting. For her. The lines that time had carved on his face scrunched up when she approached. A smile unhindered by the constraints of teeth – defined by gums alone.
She stood there.
Didntcha need makeup? Powder? Sumthin’? he said
Oh, yes! (she shuffled off, shuffles back)
She dropped something in the cart with a thuck
Thank you dear said this Weeble of a woman who stood next to the towering man with the toothless smile.
Yup. Yup. Need soap? he asks
No… she sings
Toothpaste? Shampoo? he queries
No… she sings
No, that’s all taken care of. That cabinet in the hall – open it up and it’s all right there. But thank you she gleams.
She gleamed. Just stood there and beamed up at him – her big, toothless, gummy-smiling man who must have been more than two feet her senior.
And he smiled – still – down at her Weebles-wobble-but-they-don’t-fall-down self.
For the second time in the day, it all fell away.
I almost expected him to scoop her up and put her in the kid part of the shopping cart. Instead, he put both hands on the handle of the cart and said grab on. She adjusted her purse and set her right hand on top of his left on the handle and they rolled off towards the checkout at the front of the store.
My turn at the counter finally came and with much fanfare and great ordeal, I procured my D-drugs with no fewer than three cards, two signatures, and just over seven dollars. Bag in hand, I floated to the parking lot and headed towards my car.
Snapped me out of my reverie. A boy of about ten or eleven was bounding through the parking lot into every pool of melted snow, and I’d caught some of the backsplash. He looked at me with a wide-eyed stare and I stood there.
Staring back at him.
My run was soggy, sloshing through sidewalks filled with melted snow and runoff. I was sweaty from my run. And now, I was pretty much drenched with freezing, filthy, grocery store parking lot water on the left side of my body. Fucking hell.
So I laughed. When I opened my eyes, he was smiling and I guess his mother was yelling at him (something about getting his ass *up here*) so he ran towards the front of the store and I walked to Beatrice Olivia the Mini Cooper. Opened the door, sat down, shut the door…and laughed some more. And somewhere between starting the car and pulling up in front of my house, I turned on the seat heaters (praying I wouldn’t be electrocuted).
Maybe it doesn’t mean much to you that I had a shit day today, but maybe the next time you have a shit day, you’ll remember mine. You’ll thank the fuckups who made buying decongestants a criminal act so you have to stand in line and see people like Towering Gummy Smile Guy and Weeble-Gal. We miss them when we’re too bloody busy in our own shit to stop, look, listen. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have some fearless kid drench you with a heaping splash of parking lot puddle just top top it all off. Remind you that you’re human. And that while you might have been ready to cut a bitch a few hours prior and busted your ass on ice not even an hour ago…
That there’s really nothing than can’t be fixed by seeing someone else — even complete strangers — smile.