It is the smallest things that matter. The apparent big thing, that I am rolling out the door in search of caffeine and breakfast…well, it dominates the wide screen. But the titles are rolling in one corner. And their message? That I feel a little exposed having my oatmeal and cappuccino at a table in Café Borrone. And too lonely and on display at Peet’s, now that I think of it, approaching Draegers Supermarket where, of course, the electric doors welcome me inside. More than meets the eye. More than meets the consciousness. The something that feels vulnerable, embarrassed, and wants to hide…what is it? A few more mornings like this one, the sun brilliant, California’s winter hanging mild upon the land…and all will be revealed.
I feel like being where people know me. People such as Gilda, currently waitressing at the Draegers coffee bar. We have such an interesting history, Gilda and I. She had a way, several years ago, of coming up to my table, putting her arm around me, and all but muttering pobrecito. Actually, the last bit, I now realize, was my own invention. She simply put her arm around me, because she is a natural mama. And because I do not naturally understand the mama thing, and tend to misinterpret it as a put down, something disabled men may be particularly paranoid about, by the way…I began to give her the cold shoulder. She responded by being rather huffy, and this went on for some time…years, if I am honest…until something in me matured or came to understand. Then I warmed up, and we have found a natural balance. The hugs have ceased, but the mama mia attention is back in place, though more cautious in its delivery. As I say, we are working it out.
On this particular morning, Gilda asks if I would like powdered chocolate on my cappuccino. Affirmative, of course, and borderline swooning, such as my gratitude for the attention. I am a poor little lamb who has lost his way…bah, bah, caffeine. Gilda and I now have a serious discussion concerning oatmeal. The latter has recently made its way to the menu here, but not entirely satisfactorily, at least from my perspective. Can one have walnuts, brown sugar, dried fruits, and so on with the oatmeal? Oh, no, Gilda tells me. Which tells me to talk to Dave, the store’s assistant manager. Can’t say I don’t know my way around this town. The bran muffin is exceptional, I tell Gilda. She has heated it, unbeckoned. Which does the heart good, not to mention the digestion. And where is Sandra, I ask? This with reference to the Brazilian woman who manages the cheese department. Not well, Gilda tells me. Not well, I ask? Really, not well, Gilda says. I express great concern for Sandra. I stifle my concern for the cheese department. The cappuccino is lovely.
Which about wraps up the out-of-house experience. Nothing left but the bounty downstairs. Funny what you find at Draegers on the way to a quart of milk. French fruit in a bottle with some sort of liqueur, a $40 dose of olive oil, birds of paradise just off the plane. I ask a passing shopper to hand me a quart of low-fat. Some crackers. And damned if I can pass up three packets of fried rice seasoning for only two dollars. I have never made fried rice on my own, but there’s always a first time. There will, by my reckoning, be not only a first time, but two additional times…all before the shelf life of these packets expires. My home is becoming a museum. My desk running a close second. Things I buy, but don’t want. Things mailed to me that I don’t want to deal with.
And, someone reminded me recently, the anniversary of Marlou’s death is fast approaching. Almost two years. Not that I need to be reminded of the date, but the impact…well, that is another matter. It arrives quietly, grief does, often in the mornings. Its summons is subtle, but inescapable. Sandra isn’t well, and no one is, and on this particular day, I would like this acknowledged. It only takes a moment. And I am back, back on the world, back at my desk. And staring at the seedlings. Once they were hard little things in a packet. Now they are greening and growing on my desk. They have been transported outside on sunny days, and this has been something of a mistake. Some insect keeps eating them. Unless Jane is taking random bites.
So much to deal with. Something possessed me, no other explanation, to sign up for stamps.com. The latter bears the official seal of the United States Postal Service, although long after the fact, a close reading revealed that they are a licensed vendor of the USPS. The post office would not rip us off, right? They are the last bastion of rectitude, the postal guys. So why not sign up for their thingy? I mean, printing postage from your own desktop, surely this is not rocket science. Metered mail has been around for a long time. Damned if I didn’t sign up for something that requires a $16 monthly fee, not for the postage, just for the right to print the latter. Splendid if one is a small business, I suppose. But being no business at all and posting an actual letter in a slot at a frequency of five times a year…well, I phoned them up and decided to cut my losses. They sent me some free coupons. The latter have to be signed and, you guessed it, stamped with the new stamps.com postage. In short, a vicious circle. Elders being preyed upon all the time. Certainly that isn’t me.