This story has been stuck in my “Drafts” folder for over two months. It seems timely to share it now.
February 23, 2012
I spent a week’s worth of days and nights in Jersey City, New Jersey this month. First to visit and catch up with friends, and then to catsit for all-caught-up friends.
Since December I have been kicking around the idea of returning to school to earn a Masters degree in Art Therapy and Psychology. This week I began networking and researching in the U.S. capitol of art therapy schools: New York, New York. I visited two AATA approved colleges—Pratt and School of Visual Arts—and met with a professional art therapist to discuss the profession.
Sigh. I fall in love with New York all over again each time I visit. The concrete’s pulse seems to beat in sync with my own.
I had scheduled myself to drive home last night, but after a third full day of activity I felt too drained to drive. This morning my goal was to leave by 10pm so I could make an appointment in Wilmington by 1pm. At 9am I got up to move my car and almost fell asleep while starting the ignition. Appointment cancelled. Sleep now.
Two hours later, my stomach woke me with noisy bagel cravings. Luckily there’s a great homemade bagel shop a block away. I could sleepwalk there, which was especially fortunate as I hadn’t any sunglasses, and the late morning sun burned my eyes to tears.
Halfway through my journey, a middle-aged man appeared in oncoming sidewalk traffic. At his side he swung an old beat-up skateboard—the perfect accessory to his raggedy skate threads, stained with street grime. The only thing clean about him was his new pair of black and white leather high-tops, on-trend with retro flourecent accents. Even with my gaze averted, I could not miss the day-glo. Sense strange vibe. Avoid eye contact.
So of course, of course, as we passed, this modern hobo stopped and asked me a question. I would have continued on my way were it not for his delivery. I could barely make out his words. They blurred together like a foreign accent, softening my defenses. “Pardon me?”
“Somethingsomethingsomethingsomething can you make a liiiiight?”
“Excuse me?” I asked again, not sure I heard him right.
“A liiiight. Do you have something to make a light.”
“Oh—you need a light?”
“Yes dahling, like fire. Do you have something with which to make FIRE.” Imagine his voice to be like that of the Caterpillar in the old Disney version of Alice in Wonderland—with a dash more flare.
His request struck me as extra-odd because I happened to have in my purse a new book of matches. Last night after my all-day city excursion, I felt a craving for a cigarette. I haven’t bought a pack of cigarettes since…. I’m not sure. College? I stopped in Duane Reed and, well there you have it. I had matches.
“Oh! Actually, yes, here.” I fumbled through my purse hastily, eyes averted. “Just keep ‘um. I don’t really need ’em.”
The cigarette seemed to appear suddenly out of nowhere, like a fake flower in a magic trick. “Thank you, darling.” Ok. Smile, nod, resume stride.
“Maaaay I ask you… a question?”
Ummm. “Sure,” I say, unsure but still mid-smile.
“Do you think humans can fly?”
My thoughts flipped from right to left. This was no time for logic. “Yes.”
The Caterpillar grinned, and in a grand gesture toward the sky, he proclaimed, “Simplifly!”
It took my ears and my brain a few moments to catch up. What sounded at first like “simplify” turned out to be a far more magical word. Simp-li-fly. Simply fly.
Simplifly. Huh. Well how about that.
I proceded to the bagel shop and had the most deliciously, serendipitously late breakfast ever and pondered over the significance of my chance encounter.