Hot soup and remembering to be here.
We're alive! Sometimes I feel that I must yell it to remember that it's true. It is the easiest thing to forget we are breathing. I'm on autopilot. I'm talking with someone I love and maybe I don't even know the color of her eyes. I'm eating lunch and I don't know where the other half of that sandwich went because I ate it while I was lost in thought. Sometimes in a moment I feel myself return to my body and I remember that I'm here, and those moments save my life because they remind me that joy is simple.
I sat across from Michael at Elephant's Deli. An hour ago I didn't know he was in town but now we were having lunch in the same city at the same table, with his motorcycle helmet at my side. The staff was mostly in Halloween costume, which provided a rare insight into their personally that I deeply enjoyed. My favorite was the man with the dinosaur onesie, its blue hood hanging around his neck while he joked with his customers.
Michael and I were both sick. Even though we live in different states now, we are still sick at the same time, and it makes being sick a little bit better. He ate his soup with a spoon while he talked about his job in LA, and I sipped mine from the bowl while I listened because it was mostly liquid and spices that were supposed to cure a cold. Every now and then I'd venture in with a spoon to find the cutest carrots chopped into little cubes.
I've been stressed out all week, falling behind each day on a big to-do list because of a cold that feels worse every morning. I've started carrying a cloud over my head like in those depression commercials. But sitting there in the warm light of a truly perfect autumn day, yellow leaves fluttering from the branches outside, I just watched Michael talk.
His voice has always soothed me. It's low like a dad's voice, and raspy when he gets excited and speaks louder. I was looking at his cheeks and wondering how after being in LA for two months he is still so fair, which makes his skin sort of glow. If he shaved his face I bet he'd still look 21 years old. But he would like to be taken more seriously at his new job where he is working his hardest like always but also sometimes getting coffee for his boss, which "isn't below him" because he's trying to be humble but it's totally below him because he's been present when major political figures were sworn into office and he should have someone getting his damn coffee and carrying his bag, ok?
It's about this time in the conversation that I realize I'm sitting across from my friend whom I miss very often and we're having hot soup. Michael is tearing little pieces of bread from a focaccia roll and dipping them in Mama Leone's chicken tomato, which is way better than mine, though not advertised to cure a cold. And like dust being polished from glass, or like clouds breaking apart to let the sun through, I feel my emotions do a little shimmy and shift into a joy that melts away everything that isn't here.
It is good to be here. Life is happening. Michael's eyes are brown, like maple syrup or caramel in the light. We'll feel better soon, but today we're sick. Today we're here.
Michael reaches into his pocket, removes two cough drops, and holding one out before me asks, "Dessert?"