My car is in the shop, where they are replacing some necessary part of something with a masterpiece I imagine they are knitting together out of gold thread and hundred dollar bills for what it’s costing. It was supposed to be done last night, but it’s morning, and Noel and I wake up at 5:30 realizing we have no plan to get Fable to school.
Noel has a meeting, so winner me groans loudly and googles bus routes from my pillow. If we leave early, walk to the bus and ride it a mile, I can walk the remaining mile with the kid on my back in the carrier and have her to school before breakfast, then figure out what to do with myself from there. Easy, but I’m not the best at cheerfully improvising routines that take place before coffee, so I find the dry shampoo that smells like a can-do-attitude, tell myself I don’t have to be nice to anyone, and go pull the sleeping snuggle of girl out of her bunk and into our adventure.
Fable LOVES buses, so she’s over the moon. The woman who sits in front of us has lavender nails, and Fable tells her they are beautiful, and then the women behind us coo and adore her and we trade bus riding tips and fashion choice complements until Fable finds C street, pulls the cord, and jumps out of the bus and up on to my back.
We make up songs. A jumpsuited man trimming hedges with a chainsaw stops to answer Fable’s “What is that?” with a tutorial on how the chain turns and severs. A woman in a purple hoodie joins our silly dance as we wait at a crosswalk, cementing Fable’s belief that the morning is intentionally full of her favorite color, her preferences the axis of a magically accommodating swirl of a world. We make it to school exactly on time with minimal whining, she runs in to show Melody her unicorn necklace, and then I’m alone on the sidewalk without the second half of a plan.
The shop with the car and the keys to success is on the other side of the city. I’m opening the Uber app when Noel texts to say his meeting is done, he can pick me up in 45 minutes and take me, can I walk to a coffee shop? It’s another mile to Starbucks through an occasionally tense part of town, but the world is full of purple magic things today, so I say yes and start off.
There is a man several feet in front of me listening to something throbbing in his headphones, and between us, an older woman is pushing a stroller full of odds and ends I assume she means to sell. We are parading close to each other, him, the slowest of us, setting the pace, and impatient me trying not to step on the old woman’s heels.
Out of nowhere, he stops and turns sharply, and the woman’s stroller rear ends him, and I veer abruptly off the sidewalk to avoid running into her. In a part of town where the usual strategy is to mind your own, the man laughs. He takes the woman gently by the arm and helps right the stroller, apologizing sweetly, and now she’s giggling and he’s making sure I’m alright too.
“You’ve derailed the train,” I tease him. “We had a good thing going.”
“It was while it lasted,” he laughs. “Have a wonderful morning, beautiful ladies.” Then he’s gone through the dark door of a liquor store, and the woman and I joke in hybrid Spanish/English banter for the next few blocks until we turn different directions. She blows a kiss and a blessing to me as I go.
A quarter mile from coffee, I pass a man sitting in front of a small house in a wheelchair and smile. “Hello.” he says to me, and I hello back. And then he says:
“Can I ask you for something?”
“Yeah, what do you need?”
“Will you push me to that Jack in the Box up there?” He gestures down the road, where I’m headed, at the strip mall that holds Starbucks and a couple Jumbo Jacks and I think maybe a Panda Express. I think for a moment – I’m not sure, honestly, that I’ve ever pushed a wheelchair, and I’m supposed to be careful of strangers or whatever, but he’s wearing yellow and purple shoes, so I grab the handles of his chair and wheel him along with me.
While we walk, Randall tells me how he was named after Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (seems false), how his $60 Nikes change color to alert him of his blood pressure (pretty sure that one is false), and how badly he has to pee. We crack each other up as I awkwardly push him along and almost dump him out twice: “Lord, girl, I love you but you are trying to kill me!” “Just giving you a thrill, old man, how are your shoes?” “They’ll be alright, I just need a good pee and a sandwich.”
“What’s your name?” he asks as I park him at the Jack in the Box door. I tell him, and he tears up and whispers “I knew that. I know you. We knew each other once, and I love you. I’m glad we got to see each other again. You’ll be alright, baby. You’ll be alright.”
“I love you!” he yells as I walk away.
“I love you too, Randall the Red Nosed Reindeer!” I call back.
I am the axis of a spinning world of purple magic. And now it is time for breakfast.