Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Gifts--a vignette

         “Here,” the text read.
         “Hold,” the response.

         She glanced at the three gifts placed strategically on the passenger seat and mused over the order of opening.  She decided on the biggest last, not because it was the biggest, but because it was the most heartfelt, and it should have been given long before this. 
         She had no illusions that her gifts would even register, but they were so ‘him’ that she couldn’t pass them up.  Two of them anyway.  The third was a relic from another time that had most likely already passed into meaninglessness.  Still, there was no one else, so to him it would go.
She’d given so many things over the past couple years—shirts, pins, the stocking, silly things, funny things, heartfelt things, symbols.  She thought of what she’d received from him—a Japanese music box, a director’s chair keychain that had soon fallen apart from the daily battering it received attached to her keys.  If she’d known it was one of the few tangibles she’d get from him, she’d have preserved it for all time in her memory box. 
         She checked her phone for messages.  She changed radio stations, twice, three times.  She got out of the car.  She never could sit very long.  Fidgety.  That’s what she was.  She looked at the house, the yard, the neighborhood.  Pick-up trucks, dish antennas, lawn ornaments.  How could he have come from this?  Amazing.  And what was taking so long? 
         Finally, he jounced out, phone in hand, aviators, untucked button down shirt—all his trademarks.  “Did you see what I posted?” his delight over his own humor was infectious, as was so much about him. 
         “Yes,” she smiled, immediately caught up in the gravitational pull of his aura.  So many were.  High-flying, adored.  His presence was a carnival of wit and edgy humor.  “I commented,” she added. 
         He climbed in and shifted the gifts first to the dashboard and then to his lap.   She could smell the whatever-it-was he wore that she associated with him.
         “Of course.”
         She checked to see if she had money for drinks, then put the car and drive and pulled out, her attention alternating between the road and measuring his response to the gifts. 
He opened the first one.  “Ha!  I saw this in the BSU bookstore. It’ll come in handy, I’m sure.  Did I tell you about the e-mail I got last night from _________?”
“No, forward it to me, will you?”
“Oh, I will, don’t worry.  You’ll love it.  I almost pissed myself.” 
“Eek,” a smile to him and to herself.
He inspected the second gift, already opened.  “Oh.  What is these?”
Ah, her cue. 
“Those is…candy…” 
Raucous laughter burst forth.  “My good friend Kate.”
“Yes,” she agreed and smiled again.  Omg, he never forgot anything.   “Actually they’re gum, but what’s the difference?”
He began tearing into the third gift.  She reached over and placed her hand on it, briefly, and looked at him. 
“Let me open it, woman,” he growled.
Her point made, both hands were back on the steering wheel again.

“I know this book,” he said, flipping through it.
“Yeah, it’s one of those sappy-ass graduation gift books,” as she laughed it into meaninglessness all by herself, but just ahead of him, as he fumbled for his iPod.
“You know this will just go in a box under my bed,” he reached into his backpack, “or under a printer somewhere,” a wry smile at the old-old inside joke.
He plugged the iPod into the car stereo.  “You gotta hear this song,” he said, spooling the green dial through the songs.

And as they drove along the familiar route, she listened to him sing with the music.  Of course, it was one she’d never heard before, but was sure to hear over and over again, marking this moment forever.  How now would she keep up with the music?  She thought of how differently she felt now than she thought she would this time last year, and that it really was a long good-bye after all, complete with enough grief to last a lifetime.  She thought, it’s just like the poem.  He’s already gone. 

“What do you think?” he said, checking his phone again.  “Here.  You gotta hear this one, too.”  The volume of the music made her jump.  
“It’s got a good beat, can you dance to it?” she smiled, pulling into the tightly packed parking lot.
He chuckled, but she knew he didn't get it.  That reference to a 60s TV show was even older than herself.
“All right, well…got a lot of appointments this morning.  Can’t be late,” he said, packing up his stuff. 
“You know you love it,” she said, watching him pack up.  He left the gifts.
“Can I leave these here for now?” he said, rather than asked, now out of the car.
“That’s fine,” she said, “Have a good day.  See you...when?”  But he was already gone.