My table at Aixois lists just slightly to the west, a fact so ironic that I find myself smiling. The lady at the counter asked me what she could do for me and laughed when I said, Make gluten-free pastries magically appear under that dome. She got me an Americano in the non-frou-frou mug which I favor and I went back outside in the delicious coolness of the morning.
A parkway stands between me and the Trolley Tracks trail. Jersey-clad men and women nick by on the trail, their running shoes laced tightly, their hair tied or slicked or held with bandannas. One guy barely lifts his feet from the pavement. His baggy T-shirt hangs over his black shorts. I feel his pain.
The trees on the parkway match my assessment of my status. The one on the right stands short and bell-shaped, trimmed and pared and preened and pruned. Rising above that sad little specimen grows a maple, unrestrained, wild, hopeful. They both appear healthy but I must admit, I like the look of the tree which has not been guided to an unnatural shape. As the traffic passes on its way downtown and my coffee cools, I think about this maple. I think about what Jessica said to me over dinner about standing firm for what I need. I contemplate what Wendy, to whom I am virtually connected through my ex-husband in Ohio, said in an early morning message about the “fear or flight” response that she had been conditioned to employ, about the assertiveness training that changed her life.
I myself want be like this little maple. The wind shakes its leaves as I gaze at my reflection in the computer screen: My hair pinned securely in a French knot, my demure little black shirt, my Talbot’s skirt. I’m not sure how I got to this condition, but I know that I don’t like it. Maybe it’s time to throw away the pruning sheers and buy some sneakers.