The minister at Rah’s funeral said to look at your life as a book and stop wasting pages complaining, worrying, and gossiping. That’s some deep shit right there.
- Allen Iverson
The streets of downtown Hur were jammed with post-holiday pedestrians. It was that peculiar week after Christmas when shopping slips into reverse gear, and everybody hauls back the presents somebody lugged out the week before. It reminds me of a film running in reverse, watching shoppers leave their cars and carry goods back into the stores, where clerks take money out of their registers and put it back into the customers’ hands, and then other clerks put the merchandise back on shelves.
Most people wore a frown of single-minded fatigue as they queued up at customer service counters, but one face in the store looked out of place. Eileen was wearing a smile so broad it put the sun to shame. Even frazzled people around her looked tinted by its glow.
“What’s got you feeling so fine?” I asked. Eileen and I have been friends for years, close enough that each other’s troubles are as familiar as a home-cooked meal.
“It’s that new grandson, “ she said. “Any day with my grandbaby in it is a beautiful day.”
I hesitated for a minute. Were we talking about the same baby?
“Uh, is this Lisa’s baby we’re talking about?” I asked.
“That’s him,” she said. “Little Emmanuel. He’s just precious.”
Lisa was a lovely girl, talented and bright, but always a bit of a wild child. She drank, got caught up in drugs, left Hur, went to the big city, survived in ways nobody wanted to discuss, slept around, and had hitchhiked home for the holidays.
Eileen pulled out a picture. “Look,” she said. “Isn’t he beautiful?”
He was beautiful. Lots of curly hair, an olive complexion, dark eyes, and the same smile Eileen was wearing. “Did he get that smile from you, or did you get it from him?” I joked.
“Oh, it’s mutual,” she said. “We give it to each other.”
“And his father…?” I said hesitantly.
“Your guess is as good as Lisa’s,” Eileen said. Rock solid.
“Not exactly an immaculate conception,” I ventured.
She shrugged. “You’ve seen plenty of parents and their kids. Different in ways you couldn’t possibly have imagined. It’s all part of the mystery.”
“Lisa is HIV positive,” I said quietly. “What about the baby?”
“We don’t know yet,” she said.
“Are you worried?” Sometimes I seem to specialize in stupid questions. But ‘Stupid questions are the sieve we use to pan for gold,’ according to Patty.
“Ace,” she said, “have you ever been walking along, your head busy with scheming and stewing, and then suddenly looked up at the mountains and vast sky, and thought, ‘What in the world am I doing? How is it even possible to forget this?’”
“All the time,” I admitted. “The last time was about fifteen minutes ago.”
“So should I spend my time with my grandson worrying myself sick, or should I enjoy him every minute I can?” she asked.
“Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if you have a choice. How can you help not worrying or being afraid?”
“I think of each moment as forever,” she said. “This is all there is.”
- Tony Russell, 2006