Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The day was warm and bright. A mid-April day of cool wind and blue skies. The farmer’s market was alive, full of colorful fruits and squealing children on the small grassy knoll behind my stand. It had been months of rainy weekends and the people where now out in T-shirts and girls bared their legs in short skirts. People walked by my display of fresh bread with baskets of early-picked strawberries and bags of leafy greens. I watched them, smiling at those that turned towards me, noticing their brief curiosity that was easily pushed aside; imitating the obvious expressions of others as they passed without contact.
“Oh wow, look at this beautiful bread!” She was a woman passing middle age. She touched the loaves of rye bread at the front of the table, the little wedges on their square wooden pedestals, “this reminds me of my mom. She was German.”
“Oh really?” I smiled back at her. “Did she bake?”
“No, but she was German, she ate this kind of bread.”
I nodded and watched her touch each loaf on display. Her fingers roamed their outlines nostalgically, searching for something she could not place.
She asked me for the darkest loaf I had. One slightly sweet with molasses and coated in a thick crust. I kneeled down behind the table, digging through several crates of plastic-wrapped wedges until I found the heaviest piece. I stood up triumphantly, smiling, holding the bread as though it were a trophy or hard-won treasure.
“Ok, that’s going to be five dollars.”
She looked down and dug around in her small leather wallet. I watched her hands, her long fingers pulling a bill from the small clump of paper money. I watched her fingers as she thrust the five towards me, the bill held between her thumb and pointer finger. I reached out to take the money.
“I’m so sorry…” I looked up quickly, looking into her eyes to find a reason for her abrupt apology. “I’m sorry, this bread just reminds me of my mom.” Her voice cracked with sadness, her eyes squinted in pain.
“Oh…” my expression changed to match hers, to vibrate in sympathy with her sudden rush of sadness.
The rest of the market fell away and immediately I was with only her.
The rest of the market, the bread on the table between us, the day and its sounds, the chill wind, everything that had come before, the drive, the meditation in the morning, every detail of my life, everything that would ever come after, it all dissolved as I realized she was in pain. Everything melted and fused into the channel of energy between us. I felt everything change and dim slightly as the channel between us intensified, a faint buzz filled me as other sounds muted. The amplified singer fifty feet from us, the other vendors on my sides and across the aisle, it all abruptly faded into the background as I focused on her completely.
“I’m so sorry, I don’t know where this came from. It’s like it came from nowhere. I just saw the bread and…” she trailed off shaking her head. I lifted the sunglasses from the perch on my nose, looking into her watery blue eyes with crow’s feet and wrinkles along the edges.
“Oh, don’t apologize,” I pleaded. “I know it can come from nowhere. The other night I was thinking about a friend I had that died when I was young. I hadn’t thought about it in years and then all of a sudden, I’m crying. So don’t apologize, it can come out of the blue.”
“Did she pass recently?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Two years ago.”
“Well, thank you,” she said, trying to pull her tears back in, preparing herself to once again face the world that waited beyond our small exchange.
“Thank you, I hope you really enjoy it.” I smiled sympathetically and watched her walk away with the loaf cradled in her arm like a baby.