A woman is standing at the counter, fully absorbed in trimming her nails, expressing a habit that seems to be some hack to prevent her from chewing them right off – exposing pink flesh and gnawing to the bone. “Why does life have to be so hard?” I had heard her ask her husband. And for some reason, I recognized that question. Needed to respond with something. A few bars in, and we’re waltzing that beautifully awkward dance, where you try not to step on the other person’s toes. No prying into the whats or the whys, this is about the feeling in the skin not a temporal experience, a flash of water rapidly sublimating off a hot surface. “They say, what does not kill you makes stronger,” Says she.
“The thing about stress is it has a way of breaking the body down.” Say I. “It’s important to get a chance to refresh so that really, you can grow stronger-not weaker.”
I set a glass of hot Assam tea to steep for her. A golden-brown liquor which swirls out it’s tannin and dye growing deeper and deeper in complexity as it infuses. Her husband carries it to the back of the shop along with their rations.
“Still hanging in there?” I ask, and in that moment there grows the connection. She looks up from her nails again, and says, “You know when life gives you these things, well, I still want to be able to enjoy the little beauties of the moment. And I nod. “Well, now there is tea, and food…”
Then, she tells me a story – a Buddhist story, she says, because even though she’s not Buddhist, she loves reading Buddhist stories – about a man being chased by a tiger or lion who finds himself at the edge of a cliff, and has nowhere further to go. He is hanging off of no more than a tree trunk at the edge of this cliff, and then, noticing a strawberry bush with the most perfectly ripe red berry, he reaches out and grabs for that berry, pops it into his mouth and allows that sun warmed, sweet berry to absolutely tickle his senses.
“I’m trying to be more like that,” she says. Her face shifts from a night time Nor’easter to the sunshine that unfolds silk white blossoms of the Frageria flower so that it’s petals may shift in the breeze for just one moment. And it is for this, I have allowed myself to have slowed down long enough to enjoy her presence amongst all the must hustles of the flailing mind.