A man across the aisle is reading a what to expect when you are expecting book. A highlighter in one hand, his wife on the other, he moves from reading, highlighting, sharing. Almost every sentence is highlighted.
I might tell you one day. That it was you who made me smile. It was you I dreamed about. It was always you. But it could never be us. You’re bad for me, they say. You’re not what I need, they say. It wouldn’t be right, they say. I am not deaf to what they say. I am not blind to what they see. I am not numb from the pain. They are right. That’s not what hurts the most though. I’ve given up, and that kills me. I gave you away before you were even mine to give. And I’ll never tell you.
The roar of the miles we flew by was interrupted by a calm ding. The practiced relaxed voice of the flight attendant requesting a doctor or MT to push the call button drew the eyes of everyone on board. A man pressed his call button without hesitation. As the attendant escorted him to the front of the plane to a distressed passenger, he didn’t saunter, he didn’t mosey, there was no swagger to his step. It was the walk of a man in his element. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t in a hospital or a doctor’s office. This tightly packed airplane didn’t get in the way of his calm cool intellect and his apt hands. The passenger seen to and taken care of, he quietly walked back to his seat.
Two people collide.
“I’m so sorry!”
“Shit! I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t even see you!”
“Shit shit shit, this is hot! Why don’t you have a lid on your coffee?!”
“I was letting it cool, it was too hot to drink.”
“Well it’s too hot to wear.” He pulls his shirt away from his chest.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Trust me, I’m okay. You can go, don’t worry about it. “His voice was flat, annoyed.
“No,” She suppressed the urge to stamp her foot when she said it.
“I said no. I’m not going to leave and act like I didn’t just spill scalding hot coffee on you. I’ll pay to have your shirt dry cleaned.
“No, it’s fine, really.” He wanted her to leave; he wanted this interaction to be over. She understood, she wanted it too, but it wouldn’t be right to just leave.
“No, it’s fine, really.”
“You just repeated what I said.”
“Yeah I did. It worked for what I wanted to say. Do you want to give me your shirt or send me the dry cleaning bill?”
“It’s fine, really?”
“Then let me help.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“Would you stop that?! It’s not necessary. I have other shirts. I’ll just throw this one away.”
“Why are you going to throw it away? Is it completely ruined?”
“It’s staining as we speak, and it doesn’t help that it’s white.”
“I can go get a cup of water and spill that on you?”
“What the- what would that do?”
“No, listen, it’s-“
“Would you stop doing that?”
“I’ll stop when you stop.”
“How old are you, 5?
“Oh please, being a girl already makes me mentally older than you.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“Doubt it or not, I’m either paying for another shirt or dry cleaning. Make your choice!”
“Is this the point of no return?”
“No backward glances!”
“Oh God, what have I done?”
“You still have to decide,” she sings to the tune of the song and continues humming it.
“I doubt you can afford or would want to buy me another shirt, no offense.”
“Why? How much was it?”
“500, I think?”
“Well it wasn’t 500 fish.”
“Why the hell did you spend 500 dollars on a white tank top?”
“I don’t know, because I can.”
“Because you can? What a bullshit answer that is. My shirt was a buck. Think of all the things you could do with 500 dollars. You could have gone swing dancing, deep-sea fishing; you could have gone up in a hot air balloon, or anything. Definitely do a lot more than wear a shirt every now and then.”
“Seriously, how old are you?”
“Just- how old are you?”
“20, how old are you?”
“I just turned 30.”
“We’re in different decades. Wait- you’re 30?”
“You should know better than to spend 500 bucks on a freaking t-shirt!! That proves I’m more mature than you.”
“Oh please. How do you know I didn’t buy this shirt for a charity? What if I donated 500 dollars and they gave me this shirt as a gift?”
“When a charity gives you a shirt they always have at least a logo on it; one of the many ways they spread the word. Seeing how your shirt has nothing on it but coffee, I don’t think it’s a charity shirt.”
“Well, this has been fun. You definitely know how to heat up a conversation. Have a nice life.” He begins to walk away.
“Oh no you don’t,” she meets his pace and holds on to his arm to make sure they don’t get separated. “I may not be able to buy you the same exact shirt, but I can and will buy you another shirt. Oh here are some stores, perfect! Shall we?”
“You know I do have things to do today.”
“Yep, like get a new shirt with your new friend.”
“If this is how you make friends, I’m not sure I can survive how you keep friends.”
“Oh shut up. Okay let’s see. Do you prefer the Gap or Old Navy? I’ve never really been able to tell the difference, but do you have a preference?”
“Old Navy,” he points.
“I like stripes.”
They were standing across the street from the two stores at a cross walk. The two stores straddled the street. Her gaze shifted from one store to the other, looking through the glass entrances of both. “Oh, you’re right! Old Navy equals stripes. I’ll remember that.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw him shaking his head. When she turned to look at him, he was smiling.
St. Patrick’s Day at my house has always been a little bit exciting. Every year when my brothers and I would come home from school, we would run to our bedrooms to see if the leprechauns had been there. On our beds we would find a small fortune of chocolate coins and sometimes a small gift. In comparison to Christmas or our birthdays it wasn’t much. But those March days I have collected over the years are so much dearer to me because of it. As my brothers and I got older, and as our family changed, suffered, and thrived, those March surprises were always a reminder. A reminder that even as life seems to get more complicated and our dreams more realistic, fortune and happiness are small and quiet and patiently waiting for you to come home.
I understand why happiness is associated with light. Because when you are happy, you glow, you radiate. Happiness is not something that can stay inside of you like sadness. Happiness must expand and spread, whether it’s a smile spreading across your face or your heart expanding until you feel it’s sure to burst. Happiness is a warm roaring fire. I am light, I am happy. I just wanted to tell you this because you have added to my happiness, kindle to the fire if you will. This is why sadness must exist. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know this happiness.