“Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” said Jesus, according to Matthew 4:19. And it has been thus ever since. And it has been the basis of most religions, whether Mormon, Scientologist, Muslim, Catholic. All religion counts on recruiting new members and increasing its population to find the way to eternal life. Why so much strife, then? Why brother against brother in the name of salvation? We need to strip down to our bare essentials and reconfigure what is truly important and necessary in our individual lives. And then, maybe then, in our humility, we’ll embrace each other.
Teacups clattered gently as the ladies sipped various flavored teas. Their lively chatter nearly matched the trill of robins and doves exalting the cheery day. The word BUS weaved its way in the conversation. Why oh why, Priscilla, did you rouse me from the warm reverie and drop reality on my lap? The long lines, the commuters elbowing one another vying for a seat, rude passengers airing their dirty laundry into their cellphones, buses jerking in stop and go traffic. The attendant brought out scones. “Oh this blueberry is scrumptious!” In a snap, Jeanette’s words chased away the momentary relapse.
Elias’ feet turned in and his toes faced one another other. He hobbled all day long all around town with bare feet, muttering under his breath. From a distance, he looked like an eleven-year-old boy, or perhaps it was my nearsightedness rendering me incapable of distinguishing features. The first time I got a close look, his cragged face revealed day-old stubble, just like my grandfather. Every morning my grandfather left the house clean shaven smelling of Aqua Velva. Every evening he’d return with prickly stubble smelling of rum. Close up, Elias reminded me of my grandfather. The resemblance discomfited me.
It’s a sprawling community of single family homes. Some larger, some nicer, some with greener lawns. The community shares sidewalks and pleasantries. The houses share yards separated by fences. The nicer sides of the fences face the neighbors as if warning, “don’t look past my pretty fence.” Truthfully, we don’t want our neighbors to intrude in our lives. You stay there. I’ll stay here. And if I invite you in, by all means pay a short visit. Once the door closes, ignore the tension contained within. The lack. The void. Let’s continue our pretend pleasant lives and unsee ugly truths.
Before she had cancer, she was an unstoppable force. She scrambled up ladders to adjust ceiling fans or painted the whole house on a whim; packed bags and kids for day trips; beautified herself and flitted from party to party. No task too big or too small for the unstoppable force. After cancer, physical weakness momentarily took over, but her inner strength doubled. She has faced it down and continues her unstoppable path. A path not for the faint of heart The PhD candidate continues as determined as ever, even if every now and then she pauses for a breather.
Plump, red tomatoes are my favorite with deep dimples where they once clung to the stem. Sliced up and steeped in olive oil, a sprinkling of salt. Alas, they resurface on my cheeks. Cling to the corners of my nose and rise into red bumps. Tomatoes are no longer part of my food intake, but I still buy them. I cannot resist their luscious appeal. I want to feed my desire but then I remember the plump and painful bumps on my face. The pretty tomatoes languish in my vegetable drawer, longing for me to again slice and ingest them.
Birds fly high, crickets chirr, and squirrels continue storing their winter supplies. My naked toes greet the light of day. It matters little that the autumn sun sets earlier for a true Indian summer has enveloped the northeast. Brisk winds greeted October early in the month and frost covered our grounds. But now, the air lacks the chill that cut through thin jackets—holdouts for hardy souls who refused to acknowledge the calendar. I embrace this glorious reprieve, a miracle bestowed on our land. Wiggle toes, wiggle joyously before the ground gets too cold and traps our skin beneath layers.
There was a time when point and shoot cameras proved cumbersome to access. They were seldom within reach to capture the lovely cardinal that briefly rested on a nearby branch or the puckered face of a toddler’s first taste of a lemon wedge. Smartphones have changed the way we experience life. They’ve become extensions of our hands, ears, and eyes. We maneuver our fingers deftly when we navigate this appendage and trained our eyes to shift rapidly so that not only do our brains capture a significant moment, so does our smartphone. Then, we fill cyberspace with these instantaneous images.
White dress shimmered in soft candlelight. The virgin bride presented herself in front of the altar with pure heart. She held a bouquet of gardenias, symbol of purity, refinement, love. Lofty ideas of a life filled with tea parties and social dinners played in her head. And love? Her heart skipped beats in his presence, mostly when they held hands. She was ready. Married life showed a different hand. Innocent love died on their honeymoon when drugs sat front and center. He remained incapable of consummating their sacred bond. The one saving grace, an annulment was within reach.
Mom lived in the Northeast for over 40 years and indulged in summer gardening. Now back home, exotic orchids adorn her lush garden. Lizards camp out between twigs. Coquis hide beneath leaves. Butterflies flit about. Each room boasts fresh cut flowers. Produce rests on countertops. She peels and chops the fruit of her labor. Her kitchen smells of homemade, home grown.
The older I get, the more I become like her, except for that green thumb. My plants suffer from too much water, too little water, too much sun exposure, not enough. Perhaps I too should live in the island.