We sit across from each other separated by the small table that teeters, her cappuccino licking at the rim. My toes dance against hers and she looks up quizzically. I smile and reach for her hand touching her fingers feeling the fine silver of the rings on each. She pulls her hand back and looks into the rich brown sheen. I stare out the window at the odd car looking for a space in the overfull lot, then pulling back onto the road. As my mocha latte slowly cools I feel her ankle slide along my calf. She stares at the ceiling fan just stretching she says and I smile.
Ann Arbor a certain diffidence Butte born of three rum Collins Carmel the Gucci show windows Duluth darkened, foreboding Erie escalator rattle Fairbanks a sound coffin Grapevine grand piano Hilo the restaurant empty Ithaca seeking diners Jacksonville by the exit signs Kalamazoo conventioneers drool Lincoln and slobber Memphis over the ankh necklace Natchez girl cross legged Oakland engulfed in smoke Providence the ficus droops Rehoboth in the shade of the bar Salem laughter turning Toledo into controlled sobs Urbana highball glass slips Vidalia off the table edge Wausau and falls Xenia dropping slowly Yuma through the night Zanesville into sleep.
It is incredibly sad when all you have seen is Paris from a taxi hurtling toward the center of the city, because you are late for a meeting, and then your view out of the conference room window is another glass building which, if you lean your head far enough right gives you the reflection of the Eiffel Tower.
As the meeting drags on you realize you must pay attention as another taxi speeds you to the Charles DeGaulle airport Hilton for a dinner meeting and sleep before your 6 A.M. flight to Zurich, and you begin to think that Paris and New York arent all that different from the back seat of a taxi.
Stevie and I were probably eight sitting on the front stoop of our flat, he the only one in third grade smaller than me. There was no snow to be seen, none in the sky, none on the frozen and still patchy lawn, just the wind of an always cold December day. Christmas is coming, I said aren’t you excited, with all the gifts. Stevie smiled, they’re always great but maybe this year I’ll finally meet Santa. I laughed, lacking the heart to shatter an infantile dream. Do you buy into the sled and reindeer thing, or does he come more by way of magic. Of course it’s the sled, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some pretty good jet engines. And you think he comes down the chimney I asked. We don’t have one, you know that so he must use a back window, the one where I broke the lock last summer when we were spies. He looked momentarily sad, you don’t have anything like Santa, although you get lots of neat gifts, just not all at once. At least eight, most years more but you’re right we have no Santa, but we have something even better. Better how, what could be better? Each year at Passover, Elijah comes in during our Seder I don’t see him but we have to open the door for him during dinner. Does he bring you anything? He’s not like that, he just comes all old and bearded, and before you can even see him he’s gone again, probably next door at the Goldstein’s or maybe with Larry Finkel, though his mom can’t cook very well. So what’s he do, this Elijah? Not much, I admitted, but he does have a drinking problem.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021
If, sitting at your meal you hear the song of a bird, what do you do? You may tap your chopstick rest, and perhaps he will answer and repeat his sweet song. If you tap a second time and there is only silence is the bird rejecting you or offering his song to another, flown from your window.
Perhaps you should tap again and hear the sweeter song of silence that echoes over the garden and zendo. On a distant limb the small songbird smiles.