A woman pushes her cart through a grocery store. Her son is with her. He holds the cart, following behind her. He is small, lean, and his eyelids are closed tight.
He is blind. He lets go of the cart and soon he is lost. His mother is a few feet ahead of him. She stops. She watches.
“Mom?” he says.
“I’m over here,” she says. “Follow my voice.”
The child wanders toward her with unsure steps, arms outstretched. He finds her. She hugs him.
“That was good,” she says. “You’re so good at finding me.”
She kisses him on the mouth. She stares at his clenched eyes. “I love you so much, Peter Pumpkin Eater. Don’t ever, ever, ever forget that.”
He nods. Peter won’t forget.
A woman drives an old model Nissan. She has two dogs in her vehicle. Labradors, I would guess. She is in the parking lot, loading groceries.
A man sees her. He offers to help load groceries for her. Something you don’t see much anymore.
“Pretty dogs,” he remarks.
She’s smiling at him. He’s grinning back at her. She hands him a business card. He says he’s going to call her sometime.
And you know the tune: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. And then comes health insurance premiums stiff enough to squeeze blood from a block of granite.
A gas station. A man with a little girl on his shoulders leaves the convenience store. The little girl is eating a candy bar. She gives him a bite. He takes a bite, then hands it back.
I can’t hear their full conversation, but I do hear: “Love you, Danica.”
“Love you, Dad.”
Same gas station. Two Hispanic men near a pump. One is old. One is a teenager. They are speaking rapid Spanish, laughing.
The older man goes to slide his card at the pump. The young man stops him and says:
“No, papá, permíteme.” Then, the teenager reaches into his own wallet, uses his card, and pays for gas.
The man looks at the boy. He hugs the boy and messes up the kid’s hair. I’m no Spanish major, but I know what the word “gracias,” means.
Now I’m in heavy traffic. Ahead of me, I see a car filled with older women. There is nothing but white hair in the vehicle. Their stereo is booming. I recognize the rhythm coming from the vehicle. It is the music of Elvis Presley. “Don’t Be Cruel” is the song.
The women are dancing, moving their upper bodies. One woman is dancing the Swim. Another is doing the Twist hard enough to break her titanium hip. The woman driving is laughing.
I also pass an older truck—the kind with a single bench seat. I see the silhouette of a girl leaning on the shoulder of a young man. He is king of the world with her beside him. She is his his queen. And if there’s anything happier than young love, I don’t know what it is.
I am in my neighborhood now. A child is on the side of the road, with a busted bike. I know this kid, he plays with my dogs sometimes. He waves at me.
I stop. I roll my window down. I ask what’s wrong.
“My chain slipped off,” he says. “Don’t know what to do. Ain’t never fixed a bike before.”
I throw my truck into park. As it happens, I have extensive experience with bike chains. I’m able to fix his problem with needle nose pliers and zero cuss words.
He smiles at me like I really did something—which I did not.
“Thanks,” he shouts. Then he rides away.
I’m at home now. I’m staring at two dogs that are running in my front yard. My wife is throwing a tennis ball. They run after it. She chases them.
It seems like only yesterday we got married. It seems like only yesterday we adopted these dogs. I hope my family knows how much I love them.
I don’t know what the purpose of life is. I don’t know why some suffer. I don’t know why things can’t be perfect. I don’t know why people hurt each other. I don’t know why you can’t seem to get ahead of your bills. I don’t know why you wake up feeling tired. I don’t know why friends aren’t always loyal.
But I know that life is rich, and brilliant, and it is a gift. And I know that I love you, Peter Pumpkin Eater.
Don’t ever, ever forget that.