One meets the most interesting people at Whole Foods.
I admit that I love shopping there. Whoever thunk up their marketing strategy was a genius.
Make people feel healthy the second they set foot in the store. The smell should be soothing and safe. Even if they buy chocolate bars, they should feel as if they are buying SPECIAL chocolate. Make sure that every person ends up buying something outrageously expensive that they had no intention of purchasing when they came in....
I am continually seduced by Whole Foods. And that's okay. Yesterday, I came out with a 2016 calendar of Japanese Woodblocks. It cost sixteen bucks. We always have a calendar in the kitchen, but it is often one that is given away free by our car insurance guy. Last year, Liv got Bing a Walking Dead calendar for Christmas, so we were able to watch zombies eating people's guts while we cooked.
This year, we will look at delicate Japanese woodblocks.
But, I often run into interesting people when I am there. Yesterday was no different. I was meandering around the orange juice. They must have 12 different kinds and I was caught in the headlights of the orangey-ness of those bottles and cartons. I heard a soft utterance of my name from behind me:
Maria? Maria Lastname? Can that be you?"
I turned on my heel and had a split second of thinking that familiar thought: I know you but I have no idea what your name is or how we know each other....
The gentleman was tall and about my age, with a greying beard, neatly cut and light blue eyes. He wore a fedora, a dark blue pullover sweater and old jeans. Chucks on his feet.
I blinked once. And then, he said, "Beatrice?"
And it all came back. This was Padric. From college. A Drama major to my English one. We had known each other for a very short time. Maybe....what? 35 years ago? At least. He was still good looking in that rogue way. In that way that had made him so popular with the college girls. He had played Benedick to my Beatrice in a college production of Much Ado About Nothing years and years ago.
I decided to dazzle him with my uncanny ability to remember lines from poems, songs, books and plays.
"I had rather hear a dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me," I said, and tossed my head, although unfortunately I had no hair to toss.
He bowed to me. "I am loved of all ladies," he said.
I laughed. "Oh, yes," I said, dryly. "You surely were."
We hugged. He pointed to my inch long hair. "Are you making a statement here of some kind?"
I shrugged. "It's called, 'Hair growing back after chemotherapy.'"
He blushed, just a little.
"Ah. Well, you look as if you've come neatly out the other side of things," he said.
I thought about lifting my tee shirt to reveal my oozy radiation burns, but decided to let him have his illusions.
"I suppose so," I said.
"I'm glad. The world was always so much more fun with you in it," he said. I smiled as prettily as I could with a near bald head, a stinging chest and a tee shirt that said As if Jesus would ever own a gun and vote Republican with ratty jeans and sneakers.
We agreed to partake of some coffee. He also sprung for a pumpkin scone, which I thought was a nice touch. We caught up.
When I knew him, he had been the crazily popular drama major guy who never dated anyone seriously. He usually got the lead roles in all the drama productions (Mister Roberts, Romeo and Juliet, The Glass Menagerie, The Hot L Baltimore.) He planned to move to New York when he graduated and star on Broadway. He and I once spent a blurry night of making out and dancing after the closing night of Much Ado About Nothing. I could not remember much after that since I stopped auditioning for plays after that one and buckled down to prepare for med school.
Now, it seems he was a banker. Nearing retirement. Married. A daughter. A wife who taught drama at a city college. He had gotten as far as Chicago and then realized that the life of a working actor was difficult at best and near impossible for most. He returned home and got a job, acted in a few city theater productions where he met his wife. Raised his daughter. Helped his Father die of cancer for one shuddering long year that he would never forget and it had been the reason he had purchased long term care insurance at his job.
"I was determined to NEVER have my child have to wipe my ass," he said. I nodded. Agreed. Illness, especially serious, is never like the movies. It is a messy, grotesque process. There is small beauty to it, but the emphasis should always be on the word small.
I told him my story. He wasn't surprised.
"I'd heard that you went to med school," he said. "And then someone said you'd done your internship in Baltimore and that was the last I'd heard of you. I never figured you'd EVER marry. You were such a....well....let's say a free bird in college. You know that Crosby, Stills and Nash line, 'How can you catch the sparrow?' That's how I always thought of you."
I held up my left hand, the one with the wedding ring.
"I done got caught."
"And by Bing!" he exclaimed. "She was always like your devoted roadie in school. I knew she was gay, but while I knew you were known to experiment, I always saw you as basically straight. You never seemed to pay much attention to her."
I sighed. "I know. My biggest regret. She was always the only one I was meant to be with and it took me thirty years to see that. Lots of lost time. But, we tied the knot. Did the deed."
"And you have a daughter, too?"
"Yes," I said. "Her Father is a geologist living in Colorado. A full blooded Lakota Indian. Half my age."
Padric laughed. "Now THAT sounds more like the Maria I knew!" he said.
We talked for another half hour. About what ifs. Do you remember? Whatever happened to? And then, we both became restless. It was time to end this.
"Well," I said, "I better get my orange juice and yogurt purchased."
"Yes," he answered. "I came in to buy some wine. My daughter and her husband are coming over for dinner tonight with my new grandson. Lyric (wife) will be texting me any minute, wondering where the blazes I am."
We hugged sort of awkwardly and he said, "You are still so lovely, Maria. I always thought you had an ethereal sort of beauty and cancer hasn't wrenched it away from you."
I had to smile. "You still have that silver tongue," I said, but I was pleased. Compliments on my looks are few and far between these days, unless they're from Bing and that's part of her spousal job.
He grinned. "I will always be your pernicious suitor, Beatrice," he said. And bowed again. "And, you know...I will never forget that after party where I FINALLY got you alone and you let me kiss up on you. I still remember that song we danced to over and over. Do you?"
I frowned. Thought. For a second, I thought that chemo brain had won again. But, no. There it was. In the far reaches of my mind. Two college kids. Dancing in a living room. A girl with a blue poncho and red lipstick and long hair down her back. A boy, in a long sleeved light blue tee shirt and jeans, holding a brown bong in one hand and my wrist in his other hand. While we danced the night away. Leaning in for a kiss now and again.
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.