While out running a few errands at lunch yesterday, my final stop was at Subway to grab a sandwich for a coworker who was holding down the fort for the day. There’s a little unassuming Subway on the corner of Spring Mountain and Rainbow … always busy, never quick, perpetually out of something or another. Still, it’s convenient. So I patronize.
Walking in, the line was almost out the door. I was actually kind of delighted that it would provide more of a delay in getting back to the office. It was a slow day and I had fuck-all to do, so if it took 30 minutes for me to acquire a 12-inch sub, the 2.5 minutes-per-inch would be well worth it.
There are only 5 or 6 tables in the place, all built for 2 and no more, insisting that you eat your freakin’ sandwich and get the hell out.
Stuck in line, I partook in some people-watching, and happened to set-on an elderly couple sitting at the (strangely enough) only occupied table in the place. I figured them to be in their 80s, silver hair bleached of pigment by the years and bodies weighed-down by the wisdom they carry. His plaid, short-sleeved shirt was tucked so carefully into the waistband of his pants, cinched by a brown belt and the entire look finished-off by the inevitable white tube socks and “comfy” white sneakers. I have no idea where they sell the sneakers that old people wear, but they all seem to have them. Maybe that info comes with your AARP membership package?
Anywhoo…it was his wife that really caught my eye. Seeing as how the line wasn’t moving and I’d already heard they were out of grilled chicken breast (exactly what I needed), I took the time to see this woman who for all intents and purposes, wasn’t moving.
There were tiny little red barrettes in her hair that seemed a bit too child-like for her, yet were accomplishing the task of keeping her wispy sterling hair out of her face. They even matched the voluminous caftan that I can only assume covered a once much larger frame, though now approaching a rattleboned state. The caftan was covered with a print of red cherries, stems meeting in the middle, making a pattern of these upside-down cherry V’s from neck to hem. A walker sat beside the table with two tennis balls capping the front legs and a red woven handbag hung over one of the poles. I imagined that she kept that handbag on a shelf in her closet, perfectly stashed between her good navy purse with the shoulder strap and the white patent leather clutch that she carried to church on several Easter Sundays.
I watched as her husband fed her every bite, each sized no bigger than a quarter. He’d ask her what she wanted (turkey? bread? tomato?), she would nod or shake her head, and he’d say “that’s good, darling,” when she kept most of what he’d given her in her mouth. I never saw her move her arms once as I waited in line for my own chance at the sandwich lotto, but I did see her smile a faint smile…twice.
I don’t know if anyone else in that store saw what I did, but what I saw brought tears to my eyes. I had witnessed Subway Love, doled-out in bite-sized morsels without a hint of hurry. Never did I see an iota of frustration cross this man’s face as one bite after another fell from his wife’s lips to the tabletop … I just heard praise for those bites that found their way to their intended destination. I wondered (as I was finally ordering the sandwich I came for) if she had put on her own lipstick that morning or if he had done that for her because he knew it was important to his Darling. My grandmother, her soul always with me in everything I do, never once left the house without lipstick, and I sooooo wanted to be like her each time she pulled out that ridged golden tube with the crimson dream inside.
So, here in this sub-par Subway sandwich shop, I’d just witnessed something special. I don’t believe in coincidence. Never have. Even when I was living perpetually with my head up my ass (duration: 30 some-odd years), I still believed that everything happens for a reason. I’ve just approached a delightful part of my life where I’m starting to pay attention to the happenings in my life and consider the reasons for their occurrence.
As initially mentioned in The Hallway, knowing what I need and then admitting to myself what was truly important has been the finest achievement of my 34 years living among the human race. We are all inherently human, and with that comes strength, frailty, petulance, and concern … sometimes all at once and always in combination. I had the gift yesterday of being given a glimpse of what remains when those things that are truly important endure, and then give way to another level of relating.
I left Subway yesterday feeling as if the sandwich I held were a trophy in human achievement (and a bit pissed that it wasn’t my sandwich). Not only had I been able to concoct something that resembled what my coworker had initially ordered out of the ingredients that remained, but I’d spent 24 minutes in a 600 square foot store realizing that it was good that I could see this … so many people just don’t see, and I know my life is better for having opened my eyes.
You can’t put your finger on it. You can’t force it. When it’s there, though…goddamn. I felt I owed this couple in Subway a “thank you” for allowing me to witness their lives for just a few moments.