I drive down Holmes, the street on which I live, with a container of water on the floor of my car. I’m going to get flowers at Lipari’s Sun Fresh to replace last week’s bouquet on my mother-in-law’s grave. Above me spans a sky as blue as my sapphires, bluer than my eyes. Air flows into the window and someone on the radio is talking about things on paper not always being as they appear. I’m half-listening. The other half of my brain should be paying attention to the road, but I’m thinking about tragedy in a friend’s life and wondering how I can be available to her without making it about me, helping; rather than about her, hurting.
Trees in full fall glory span the road on either side of me, and as I crest a small incline, a bunch of bright orange maple leaves float to the ground. They mesmerize me. I’m distracted and miss a pothole, which jars me and brings my attention back to driving.
An hour later, I’ve freshened Joanna’s resting place. The scrappy lady with steel-grey hair and piercing green eyes who sold me the flowers mentioned the lovely day and the Royals’ loss; and asked if I needed a bag. I told her yes, it helps to carry the flowers; and then I thanked her for the store’s stocking Joanna’s favorite color. I explained what I do with the roses that I purchase there nearly every week, and she stopped fidgeting with the cash register. Her face broke into a soft, sweet smile and she said, Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! When I left her counter, the smile on her face lingered: with me, with her, with the man behind me in line.
I left the cemetery after photographing the flowers to show to my favorite curmudgeon. On a whim, I double-backed to one of the places where I like to get coffee and write. A young man at the counter sings Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? and I say, My Fair Lady, right? and he stops singing to tell me he really likes the musical. He can’t be more than twenty, twenty-two. I’m unexpectedly touched.
Then I’m on the patio, computer open, and some generic music plays from the strip mall’s speakers. I hear birds; I see an American flag; I notice the adjacent parkway with its evergreen shrubs and its young oak trees. I feel a knot of tension ease in my back. It’s Sunday; I’m relatively healthy; I have loyal friends and people who love me and hold me close. I can’t complain. I really cannot complain.