I have dropped her off at a new school that will shed that newness in a whisper of time. We picked up older friends along the way, their chatter immediately filling the back seat, but my first passenger – by address order and birth order alike – remained silent, listening. They speak a language not yet learned, beyond the Spanish 5 and French 8 scheduled blocks discussion just behind her. I don’t worry, she’s a quick study on most things, bed-making and laundry-sorting aside.
I have twenty minutes to spare before the garden opens. I have planned for this, and treat myself to coffee and a sandwich in the interim. The lot is full as I wait to turn in, several yellow buses pass me before it’s clear. The line is long as well, but I’m not in a hurry. The man ahead of me fiddles with his phone in annoyance, and finally steps up to the counter, placing his order. They begin to make his drink and warm his sandwich, but the payment app on his phone is acting up. He moves towards the door to try and remedy it, but it’s locked up. I step up next to him, and ask him if he’ll let me buy him breakfast. He politely declines, but his frustration seems to fade. “Please, I’d love to,” I ask again. He looks at me and places his phone in his suit pocket and accepts.
“The name for your order?” the cashier asks. “Turan. T-u-r-A-n.” He turns to thank me again, and tells me no one ever gets the A-N right on his name. I’m asked for my name, and I reply “K-r-i-s-t-I-n. No one ever gets the I-N right on mine either.” We smile and move together to wait for our food.
Because it’s busy, we have some time to talk. He thanks me again for breakfast. I tell him that I just dropped my oldest daughter off for her first day of high school, and in those moments since, I’ve wondered how I should mark that milestone. So I say that I’m glad I was behind him in line, and I tell him about the time I came through the drive-thru just after my niece died, and when I pulled up to the window, my bill had already been paid by the person in front of me. My girls were with me – and they still remember it four years later. “And I look forward to the opportunity for me to do the same,” he says. I’ve met a poet.
Except that he’s not a poet, but is dressed in suit and tie for work. Or maybe he is. He leans in closer and tells me that the sight of the school buses this morning gives him hope. “I think this is a good day for your daughter to start high school. Some positivity in this moment, with Charlottesville.” There, he’s done it. He’s extended the conversation that I can’t get out of my head – to me. I nod, and tell him of my internal frustration at wanting the space to acknowledge the small things in the mess of all of these big things.
“Turan.” They call his name, and he picks up his sandwich, turns to me, and smiles. “Small things,” raising his bag slightly towards me, thanking me again without words or guilt or embarrassment. So I drive to the garden to look for the small things there, to say thank you for the gift of this morning already.