As I listen to the NPR reports about the attacks in Paris, I feel a little shabby. The deaths of so many people make my life seem trivial; the terrible suffering on the streets of Paris overshadow any small problem that might plague me.
Nonetheless, I sit drinking coffee, eating GF granola, and thinking about my Friday.
The day began as days begin: Alarm rang, startling me from a terrible dream, but it was just a dream, and it quickly faded. I threw together the accouterments of an ordinary life -- warmed over coffee, sweater dress, food dumped in the dog's dish on the back porch and the cat's dish out front. Boots zipped, pocketbook draped cross-body, computer bag slung over one shoulder; out the door, down the driveway, struggle into the world's smallest rental car.
I drove north to my auxiliary existence in Liberty. Once through the square, I slid into the handicapped spot on the curb by the courthouse. I saw a hand raise on the sidewalk, and returned the greeting of one of the Clay County judges.
Ten minutes later, I mingled among lawyers who have adjusted to make a space for me at their Bar. My friend Pat entertained me with an account of the case she would be trying later that morning. Another female lawyer described her foot surgery, without seeming too disappointed at having to wear flip flops to in-chambers pre-trial conferences. A clerk offered to get coffee for me. I complimented a nattily dressed young male lawyer whose striped socks matched his pocket-square.
By 9:30, I settled myself at a table in Morning Day Cafe. I couldn't get on the Internet so I moseyed up to the counter for password advice, and chatted with a cartoonist sketching while he ate his breakfast. Ten minutes later, he stopped at my table and gently laid a sketch down, For you, he said softly, presenting me with a depiction of a cat and a rabbit sitting in a coffee shop using a laptop which had a carrot for an emblem. A giraffe peered through the picture window in the background, a window strikingly similar to the one behind me.
I put my hand out to touch his arm. Wait, please, I begged, scrambling in my bag for something to give him in exchange. My fingers curled around one of my more successful types of Law Firm pens, and I gave that to him. That's me, I said. Thank you for this picture. He smiled and made his way out the door.
My friend Pat came after her trial and had a cup of coffee with me. We argued over who would pay the bill; she claimed it was her turn but I demurred, since she had not even eaten. She let me buy her coffee, swearing that she would retaliate by getting my lunch next time. An ordinary exchange but I left smiling.
At the building where I've had an office for the last few months, I followed another lawyer into the building after parking behind Pat's car. I discovered that someone had hung a beautiful blue wool coat on my office door, and left a bag of clothes. I lifted the top item and gasped at the soft beauty of a pale green shawl. At that moment, Trish Hughes, another lawyer who had, until this month, owned the building came into my office. You left me this beautiful coat, this lovely shawl, didn't you? And she admitted that she had. I thought they looked like your style, and I don't wear them anymore.
A glint on the collar of the coat caught my attention. It's an angel pin! I gasped. Did you know about me and angels? She said she didn't; the pin hid a little flaw which she showed me. You don't have to keep the pin if you don't want it. Ah, but I do. I do.
An hour later, a client sat in my office and cried about the difference between what her husband was telling her and what his lawyer had said to the judge and recited in the husband's proposed parenting plan. He said he would not take my girls from me, she whispered. I didn't even have a box of Kleenex to offer her. I could only gently guide her to a state of calm with a strategic plan which might or might not work. When she had left, I stepped into Trish's office and asked her to help me load everything she had given me into the car. Thank you for asking me to help you, she said in her lovely voice. I could not reply; I would have broken down. I hugged her though; and promised that I would see her next week.
In the afternoon, I presented myself in the Outpatient Radiology department at North Kansas City Hospital for a chest x-ray. Undress to the waist and take off that necklace, the technician directed. I stood in front of her and contemplated making an admission; I did not like to do so, but I had no choice. I can't unfasten this necklace, I told her. If I need to take it off, you'll have to do it. She looked at me with something that I felt wanted to be distaste. But then, for some reason, she relented. I saw the moment flicker across her face. Maybe I reminded her of her mother; maybe she remembered what drew her to patient care in the first place. She stepped behind me and undid the tiny catch of the chain holding the smokey topaz which I rarely remove, and laid the lovely thing on the counter beside her clipboard.
After the test, she just as carefully refastened the chain around my neck.
I got a tea in the coffee shop where I have, on several occasions, sat and cried. But yesterday I felt no need for tears, only that bone-deep chill of approaching illness. The Earl Grey flowed through my body and warmed me, if only briefly.
Back south, in Westport, at the car repair place, I told the woman behind the counter that I would not drive the rental car again. Can you call them, please, and tell them to come get it? She asked if I had had car trouble as she dialed the number of Enterprise Rental three blocks away from her establishment. Yes, I did; the cabin space is so cramped that I could not see over the steering wheel and I struggled to get in and out of the vehicle. I fell out of it onto a parking garage floor. She stared at me as though thinking, perhaps, that I had lost my mind. But she made the call.
The manager of the car place transferred my bags and the lovely blue coat into the Prius and shook my hand just as the manager of the car rental outfit pulled onto the lot with a crumpled rental car. He strode across the lot. Mrs. Corley, he called. I hear you had some problems with our rental car, I am so sorry. We stood by the Prius while I explained the vagaries of having a spastic body, of shoving that body into a tight space. It was not the end of the world, but I just reached my limit of endurance. He apologized; he gave me his business card; he told me to let him know if I needed anything in the future. Then he, too, shook my hand, and I got into the Prius for the drive home.
I pulled into my driveway, noticing the ten bags of collected leaves grouped around the tree on the parkway. What nice neighbors I have, I said, out loud, to no one. Earlier in the week, I had received a text from Scott Vaughn, one of the men next door, telling me that he would rake my leaves before the approaching city collection date. And sure enough, he had.
I stepped from the car with the motor still running, my cell phone connected to the charger which I had left all week in the Prius. I started toward the front porch with my two bags: the computer bag in my right hand, the bag of clothes in my weaker, sprained, left hand. And I felt the twinge which tells me that I'm going to fall, and fall I did. When my head smacked against the backdoor of the Prius, my first thought was this: If I have to take it back for more body work, I want a bigger rental car.
I lay on the ground amid the few autumn leaves which had drifted down from the nearly naked tree, in the hours since Scott had done his work. I peered at the grey-blue sky, wondering if it would rain; thinking about my cell phone eight feet from me inside the car, on its charger, sitting in the change tray.
I had inched my way as far as the edge of the vehicle when I heard a voice and knew that I would be rescued. Brian Martig, my fellow Waldo-Brookside Rotarian and the contractor working on my house, bounded down the stairs, scooped me from the ground, and steadied me against the Prius.
Eventually, the Prius parked, I made my way into the house. I shook the leaves from my back, onto the living room floor. I climbed the stairs to talk with Brian about the day's progress. I admired the finished plumbing and tested the LED lighting that will span the length of the attic closet that Brian designed and built. I lowered the drawbridge entryway, marveled for the thousandth time over the ingenuity of its design. I studied the amount of illumination cast from within the new closet. I voiced my thoughts about the position of the light switch. Then Brian packed his tools and made his way home to his wife, his son, and the promise of his unborn daughter.
I watched an episode of Chopped. I perused the Internet news of Paris. I gave my son advice over the phone about refrigerated meat. I listened to voice mail from my friend Brenda. In the silence of the house, I thought about angels. I have no lack of them. In fact, I concluded, for such an ordinary woman, with such a mundane life, I seem to have angels around me in abundance.
On the strength of that conclusion, I set the alarm, and went to bed.