Save My Soul

She walks away from the front door of her business, down the long sidewalk, broom in hand. She swishes the broom from side to side over the sidewalk. You can see her big round belly shake through her long thin sundress at each step she takes. As I walk past this scene, I smile and comment ” Boy, you sure are keeping things neat and tidy. I can barely sweep the inside of my house, never mind the outside.” Her eyes slowly move up from the area that she is sweeping and meet mine, so slowly in fact, that I stop walking to hear what she may say. I don’t want to be rude and keep walking, especially because I initiated the conversation. She whispers “people come here expecting me to be able to see into their souls. In doing so, they make themselves vulnerable. Their souls, they fall at their feet as they walk out and away. I must sweep them off of the sidewalk and onto the grass so that mother Earth can take them back. I do not want to be responsible for their souls.” I am at a loss for words. “Oh”, I say, and begin walking again.

When she speaks again, she seems like a totally different person, her voice is higher and louder, more assertive. “Take a minute. Come in. Get a reading. You want to know your future, no?” I stop again. I look past her, and I can see the sign. It announces : Halima’s Tarot Card Readings, Palm Readings, Psychic Consultation, and More. The sign is so crowded with words I have to look closely to catch it all. What’s the “and more”? Cleaning up lost, forgotten, mislaid, misplaced, fallen souls at her front door?

All at once I feel a coldness deep inside me. I shiver amidst this hot summer day. I back away from this woman, this space, so drastically and urgently that I stumble.

“Oh, don’t be afraid. Yes, I feel it too” she says as she looks into my eyes. She is whispering again.

I don’t speak, I cannot. I am suddenly overcome by fear, like from childhood at night when
you hear a sound in your house. But here, I can’t close my eyes. I can’t pull the covers over my head and curl into a ball.

I turn on one heal and run. I run. No chances taken here. I am not ready to give up my soul. And, that is what it felt like. Like she takes souls.

I make a mental note to never walk past her establishment again, to quite literally save my soul.

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He said “I don’t want to be with you anymore. “. The shock and filth of it was like the belch of thick black smoke from an old car. And like that smoke, it hung in the air. I stood there, waiting for the smoke to dissipate, to clear. But, it did not clear. I could feel my body become so so heavy, yet my head felt light, like it was going to float away like a balloon let go of by a small child.

He turned to walk away, and stopped for a moment, his body half turned away from me and half turned toward me. A wave of relief washed over me, crashed upon me. His own words had startled him. His words are not how he really feels. He has made a mistake.

He looks at me, his eyes settling just above my head as his words came out. “I’m sorry.” I wait for the rest of what he has to say. Now, he turns away from me and begins to walk. I watch him, each step that he takes. His steps are loud hard stomps. My balloon head begins floating away, higher and higher away, the ribbon having finally slipped out of somebody’s hand. Now, I am disconnected from myself. Just as all the anger and sadness was starting to well up inside of me, it dissipates. It is lost, gone, some where else.

I talk to myself.

“Get hold of the ribbon and get that balloon back down. Get it back before it’s gone forever!” And, that is just what I did. Next, the heaviness of my body mysteriously lifted, and I was back to me, back to being in myself. Now, the pain comes. It is intense. I gasp for breath and my chest tightens. Like in the movie, I see a montage of scenes with him and I. The montage ends with me standing here alone. I look around. Yes, I am alone. He is gone, yes gone. He has left, he has left me. He has undone “us”, and left me with me. I stand up very straight, inhale deeply, and exhale as I take my first step without him.

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Solo Performance

She sits, hands folded in her lap, curled around bright red drum sticks. She waits for her part, paying close attention. And, there it is, a red light. She breaks out a strong beat on her steering wheel, unaware of the car next to her creeping up to get a better look, now pointing and smiling. Double beats, single beats, rest. Wild rambunctious beats fill her truck, as she dances in her seat. She cannot be still. Until, until the light turns green. Away the sticks go, and she quietly drives off.

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How Much Change?

“Hey, the register isn’t telling me how much change to give back!” I heard the cashier say. Oh, I remember this from when I worked at Burger
King when I was like 19. It was incredibly stressful. I initially solved this problem by having a pencil and piece of paper next to the register. But, both shame and embarrassment quickly disavowed me of this notion, not to mention the fast pace of the first lunch rush at the drive-through. Doing math on a piece of paper off to the side. Yeah, right. I was lucky to have a moment to breathe!

So, necessity is the mother of invention, or learning- in this case- how to count back change using only my brain. I honestly do not remember exactly how this lesson went or who the teacher was. But, I do know it is information that I still use today. On the rare occasion that I pay cash, I know exactly what I should be getting back. Funny, most folks don’t count the change back. They merely drop the pile of change into my palm, and cover it with a few bills of paper money, or the reverse, pressing the paper money into my hand and topping it with the change. But, I feel empowered to know exactly what the change should be right at that moment. And, I speak up if it isn’t correct.

I hope this cashier finds his way to this valuable skill. I know, in the age of smart phones with voice recognition, he could just shout out the mathematical request. But, even in modern day, shame and embarrassment still endure.

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Waiting Room

As I wait at the doctor’s office, the “cell phones interfere with our equipment. Please no cell phones while in the office. Thank you for your cooperation” sign forces me to instead look around. I spot a woman 2 seats over from me. She is reading a book on her IPad. What catches my eye about her is her shoes. They in fact are different colors. One is purple with black swirls and looks dots and green trim. The other is tan with black polka dots and purple trim only on the toe area. They are completely asymmetrical. My eyes keep going to them, to the imbalance. They are very different than the woman’s across the room, pale rose color with matching flower decorations on top, neatly atop pantyhose covered feet, nicely matching her plaid pastel skirt and green pastel spring coat; a vintage look really. Funny thing she does , she keeps lifting her feet up and looking at her shoes, legs stretched straight out. Now they are flat on the worn blue carpet S the doctors comes to the door and calls “Joan”, she is up in an instant, hand extended to shake hand of the doctor in the open doorway.

Now, and older gentleman. Eleven other available chairs, and he sits right next to me. I am vaguely irritated by his proximity. I mind as well look at his shoes. Black slip-ons. Look comfortable. Brown thick looking socks underneath, faded jeans on top. Now, the coughing begins. He brushes against me as he reaches for a tissue on the table next to me, politely saying “Excuse me” as he does so.

Now, the three of us are all nestled together in the corner of the waiting room; woman 2 seats over and coughing man right next to me. Eleven other seats in this good sized waiting room. I have a twinge of claustrophobia. I wish I could immerse myself in my multiple distraction on my IPhone; email, texts, Facebook …

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Uninspired. That is me. For right now, anyway. So, I sit on my couch, and sink further and further, both into the couch and into my uninspired state. Oh, I am sure I have been here before. But, my amnesia of the difficult times keeps me from hints of a potential path out. So, I sit. And wait. For something. A thought. A sight. A memory. A smell. A something. Anything. Nothing yet. Nope. Not a thing. Not one morsel. Not one loose thread for me to tug at and unwind.

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As I wait behind the woman in a long black petticoat, pulled tight at the waist, I cannot help but hear her conversation, or more like her announcement.

“I need to be able to squeeze a wedding dress in here to take on the plane tonight”, she says loudly as she tilts her head to one side to further examine the suitcase.

It is covered with dust and has a big tag on it marked $10.

“Oh, that’s not our tag” the man tending to the cash register says.

“Just need it for one night. It’s complicated” she continues her monologue.

The owner of the estate shop comes around to the front counter, interrupting his lunch. He tells her she can bring it back if it is not big enough as he rubs his hands together, presumably to remove any lingering crumbs.

“Well, it will be a while because I’ll be in Hawaii”.

“Oh”, the owner says. Then he motions me over to another part of the counter to tend to my sale. I have chosen 11 unique keys from his secret drawer of old keys that I discovered. I just love his estate shop for this reason. You make all kinds of discoveries as you travel through the store. This one was in a metal tool chest, in one of the drawers marked “look inside”.

I can still hear her, seemingly trying to entice the other worker as she goes on about her wedding. The worker does not seem that interested in her adventure.

“Do you want the suitcase or not? Five dollars and it’s yours”.

Now I’m fully into my world. Her voice goes away. The owner goes though each of my keys, and I watch, each key its own special self. One short and round. Another, long and thin with exaggerated teeth. Yet another very small and very cute.

“Ten dollars for all of them.”

“Can you do any better for me? Remember all those brass keys- that was a big one” I counter. A few years ago, I spent a few hundred dollars on a whole bunch of brass keys- all so beautiful.

“Yeah, I suppose so. The credit card fees- last month $478. I have to fold it into the prices” he explains.

He puts the keys into a little white paper bag and folds the bag top down neatly several times, creating a special little white package.

On my drive back to the office, I get to thinking. There is a draw here to this place. I often wander into the way back back of the store where he has odds and ends of nuts, bolts and the like in glass jars. It so reminds me of my father’s workshop. A special sacred place. A place where my father seemed happy and content, a place he seemed to truly belong.

You see, my father passed a few months ago, and he is on my mind. I have been into my father’s workshop one time since his passing. I am eager to spend more time in there. Chaos and drama as part of the probate and estate does not allow anyone in his workshop at this time. I so am looking forward to spending time in my father’s oasis, his special place of contentment and ease. I see that this is the very sentiment that draws me back to this place where treasures wait for their discovery.

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Main Street on a Friday Night and a Jazz Quartet

  • What a fun night at the Buttonwood Tree on Main Street in Middletown. Just 11 of us in the audience, the performance felt very intimate. Piano, bass, drum, and saxophone. The performance was in the cozy back room of the coffee shop. There were tall brick walls. Some lighting overhead. Thick dark blue velvet curtains dampen the sounds of Main Street. My eyes wander to the slight part in the curtains, exposing a slice of Main Street on a Friday night.

Curious shadows arrive on the side walk, with their owners soon to follow. Three long, thin shadows slowly become a man, a woman, and a child in between them.

A gentleman in a tan coat opens the garbage can and searches around inside.

Two police cars and then another move quickly down Main Street, their red and blue lights lingering in the distance, reflecting into the opening in the curtains.

A group of three young men walk slowly by, all tightly in a row as they peer into the phone screen the middle man is holding.

An older man with long white hair and a long white beard is helped up from the curb and handed a cup of coffee by a young man.

Now my eyes wander back to the venue, rejoining my ears.

A speaker sits atop an old wooden armoire of simple construction, weathered with dents and chips. Somehow it looks perfect here tonight.

Some time later, two more police cars power by, red and blue creeping in again. I think “play louder!” I want to keep the reality out.

My eyes settle on the piano player. He connects with the keys so completely. He and the piano exchange energy; giving and taking and taking and giving. At one point, he pulls both hands away from the black and white soldiers so suddenly it is as though they shocked him, bursting with sheer energy and beauty in their sounds. He, rather they, have their moments of solo performances, when the other three lower their volume and support piano man and piano. Then, there are other times when he supports, punctuating ever so slightly the other men and their instruments, with perfectly placed unbolded exclamation points. So very sensual. And courteous, always with a slight nod and smile at the audience with each eruption of cheers and applause for his solos. His legs move rhythmically during each piece, sometimes crossed at the ankles, sometimes feet side-by-side.

Next is the man playing the bass, what I thought was a gigantic cello as I was watching them set up. He takes command of his instrument. The beautiful wooden piece is a work of art, with its curves and shine. It stands as tall as its commander, and is wider than him, with a petite waist and what my stepmother referred to as “birthing hips” in reference to me at age 15- just what a 15-year-old girl wants to hear. He demands the sounds from the strings as he plucks them and presses them and pulls them. There are times when he seems to be coaxing the sounds from the strings with a gentler touch and energy. For a few minutes, he uses a bow to create a clear resounding effect that elevates to the very front of all the sounds of the instruments , but only for a moment. Then, back to wrestling the words from his bass. He too recognizes the audiences recognitions for his solos, from him a grin so big his eyes close for its duration.

The man paired with the drum also serves as the group’s spokesman and announcer for the evening. His humor has his group and the audience laughing out loud many times, even as he talks about not being able to use the symbol on the left because of rotator cuff pain not allowing him to twist and reach it. I am not sure if that was supposed to be humorous but it did gather laughter from the audience. His beat, always on, served as a metronome for the group, but not overpowering it. Until his solos, which were crisp, energized, and felt within the depth of my chest with their sheer strength. He too responded to the audience’s affections and recognition of his solos, with a subtle and brief head tilt to the side.

Lastly is the saxophone player. Front and center. His saxophone found its way in past his thick mustache and beard. He seems cool as a cucumber, working with his saxophone like he had been doing this since the day he was born. The sounds in quick succession coming from him and his; amazing. And seemingly effortless. I didn’t even see him break a sweat. He would occasionally put his saxophone down on the well worn wood-planked floor to sip from his water bottle. Just one small sip that he would swish around the front of his mouth before swallowing it. I imagine the vibration of playing a reed instrument gets to your gums and teeth, needing to be refreshed every so often. Courtesy from him, too, as he shifts to the side during drum and during bass solos to allow full attention and recognition of each soloist. And, he, too, acknowledged recognition from the audience, with a three to four head nod and ever so slight smile ( could have actually been bigger but thick mustache may be concealing its full berth).

Each member, a different connection with each of their instruments. And different temperaments. And the music they play together, woven together , complimenting one another so perfectly. Oh what a beautiful experience. A slice of Main Street on a Friday night and a slice of a jazz quartet. Thank you to my friend Faith who texted me in the middle of the day to let me know about this event!

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No Turn on Red Sign

The No Turn on Red sign. Permission to stay. I always feel comforted when I’m at a red light and it says No Turn on Red. No decision to be made. I can just wait until I am told to go, told by the flash and splash of the green light above me. Oh, even with the No Right on Red sign, I get beeped at from behind. But, I simply make eye contact with the honker behind me via rear view mirror, and point at the sign, No Turn on Red. Defer to the sign. It’s not my decision either way.

Hmmm. I guess the red light in the lane waiting to go straight is ideal. Now this is also a ‘no decision to be made’ with presumably no beeps from behind.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I just like to go with the flow, with no decisions to be made. Put me on the track and let me go go go, like Thomas the train and all his friends, pre-destined to their path with grooved wooden train tracks snapped together like puzzle pieces. Nothing to think about. In fact, freeing my mind to think about things other than this.

No Turn on Red. A break from me making a decision. I will enjoy the decision vacation, if only for a moment!

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The Watching Woman in the Red Dress

There is a woman. She watches me whenever I am at the sink washing the dishes. She wears a strapless red dress, long and form fitting; quite formal for the occasion, really. And her hair, short and spiked. Some might find a chemical product to try to soften its coarseness. But, no, not her. She prides herself on this. It is who she is.

Now, I take her by her tiny waist and turn her upside down. Her eyes don’t even close as her head enters the soapy water. I just know her candy apple red lipstick laden lips are still smiling, as her bristly ‘do scrubs the pot, sloshing in the soapy suds.

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