Ok, so… I’ll just drive up like the wind, and give her this box, tell her I’m in a huge hurry, and she can take it to them when she takes the rest of the stuff tonight.
Best laid plans of mice and minnows.
“Hey Sheena, do you know where Rosemary is?”
We’ve known this girl as long as we’ve lived here. It’s her dad that keeps our veteran fleet of vehicles mission-worthy. (Quite a feat, by the way.) We’ve called him more than once from 3 states away…
[quizzical look] “She’s not here…”
Not here!? This was not in my best laid plans…
“Nope. She’s in town. Can I help you with something?”
I stare stupidly while my brain twirls like a little girl in a new dress.
Listen, this was not my idea! Going up to the rodeo grounds to hunt up some perfect strangers crossing the United States in a covered wagon, and offering them a random box of fruit? They are probably both allergic to pears. Where are you when I need you, Rosemary? This was your idea after all. And the box isn’t even from me! So I’m supposed to go up to them (whoever they are!) and say: hey, Rosemary told someone else about you, and they decided to send you this, which I brought? Wow. Oh, and by the way, I’m Seán.
The girl at the gas station is still staring at my quizzically. (little wonder why.)
“Oh, uhhh… No, no. I had some things to drop off for her to handle, but I’ll just take them myself.”
Um. Hello? Did I just say that?
I jump back into the van and put it in drive. Of course the moment I do, things don’t seem so daunting. Until, that is, I am actually putting the van in park beside said covered wagon way out at the rodeo grounds. Then once again that voice inside me (which I despise) demands: So here you are. …and just what do you plan on saying?
I don’t know. I shoot back. (Maybe even out loud.)
And I shut the driver door behind me.
20 minutes later, my new friend and I are still learning against the hood of my van in animated discussion. His wife had long since hauled the box of peaches and pears into the back of the covered wagon, and is seated in the lawn chair under the juniper tree on her second or third piece of fruit. We on the hood are somewhere halfway through our life stories, when I mention I was born in Chicago…
“Ahh, I knew you weren’t from around here.”
I looked down at myself. Red Izod sweater with sleeves pushed up, a watch that’s definitely not the cowboy edition, dark blue denim, dotted dress socks and casual leather shoes I brought home from Germany… But what do you wear every day? I was just going to the Post Office.
He launches back into the tale of taxi cabs in Daytona.
45 minutes. I finally decide I’d better go. (I was in a huge hurry, remember?)
I’m ready to bid my new friends farewell, but he wonders if I’ll be back. I ask what he needs, and he gestures towards the gas can that supplies their little generator. Of course I’d be happy to take him into town to get some. His one leg and crutches won’t get him and a gas can there and back any too easily. (Never heard if he lost the other one while on US Navy’s SEAL team 6 thirty years ago, or thereafter.) He’s hunting for spare change in the back of the covered wagon.
So it is that I return to the gas station 45 minutes later.
He follows me in.
“Hey Sheena, we want 10 dollars on pump 3.”
Poor girl. There she is looking at me quizzically again. But I’m having a scattered day.
(No Nebblett every pre-pays at that gas station. If we don’t use a card, whoever is in the office recognizes any Nebblett-mobile at a glance, and the pump turns on.)
I dismiss the need for his change. He counters, but I tell him it’s my joy.
He puts the fuel into his can, and I return alone to pay.
“Do you take AMEX, or only VISA.”
“AMEX. American Express. Do you take it?”
“Oh, yeah. Of course.”
That quizzical look again.
Why did she ask me that?
Suddenly it dawns on me.
She hands me back my card. I tap it on the table.
“Uhh, I guess I could have done that out there, couldn’t I?”
Quizzical look, this time accompanied by a suppressed smile.
Now I tip my head back and laugh. She laughs too. When we recover, she asks:
“So what’s he doing with you?”
I glance out the window at the stranger with the graying beard, wearing a tattered sleeveless t-shirt and one-legged jeans, in animated conversation with her mechanic-dad working on a car out in the parking lot.
And then back at Sheena–
“Oh, he’s my friend.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
20 minute later, and finally heading back towards home, I realize:
I almost missed that one, you know. But for Tia’s box of fruit, and Rosemary’s trip to “town.” (Albuquerque)
And still, I could have missed it…
Because of selfishness.
Because I didn’t want to look dumb.
I’m so, so ashamed.
You can’t reckon joy in minutes or dollars.
Joy comes from sharing life.
Life temporal, and life eternal.
Tell me, of what use is life that’s not shared?