Some folks would count it a sign to forego the fries. There I am, heel of my right hand holding back the screen on the CD vending machine, bag of hot fries dangling from my fingers. I am looking for Winter’s Bone, a film I wanted to see before the Oscars and was reminded of this morning by a librarian friend. Since I’ve only recently returned to using the service, I am unfamiliar with the screen and selection process, but I fumble forward alphabetically, scanning available titles. I am engrossed in this process and, having already earned the fries by walking across the vast parking lot that used to be desert, feelings of virtue abate the usual pressure to produce. So I linger, ignoring the shadow getting closer, imagining that he will defer to age. Being that it is broad daylight and no short hairs are standing on the back of my neck, I do not even glance in his direction until he speaks, a second time.
“Excuse me. I’m not a bum. I’m just trying to get enough to get something to eat.”
His voice is familiar and, when I glance, so is his freshly gelled hair and haircut. I ask if he’d like some French Fries.
“I just bought them,” I add, extending my hand.
He smiles, nods, accepts, moves on.
I do not. Instead, I go back inside, order again, share the story in hopes of remembering where I’ve seen him before and, to my delight, I am rewarded with a complimentary order of fries. Compelled to pay for not giving him money, I order the strawberry creme pie that caught my attention the first time around. Life, it turns out is not only too short to skip desert, it’s too short to ‘hold the fries’.
I walk back across the street, to a rock in the corner of the parking lot that used to be desert and perch on it in the shade of the building, the better to enjoy my spoils. After all, it’s not only Dr. Phil’s guests that are entitled to self-sabotage and permission. I remember where I first saw him. The Walmart parking lot, a week or more ago. As I blog, Woonsong’s Vivaldi plays followed by a Brazilian hip-hop duet, and something retro French – Button Hacker’s Night. I am filled with alternating currents of longing for the people and places I have missed and the present I am also not living. Now, that’s a sign.