The Present

Shay notices three threes as she rushes into the courtyard between the parking garage and her coffee. Well, the cafe really, where she buys her cafe con leche every afternoon. They’re tall evergreens, in the center of downtown. In a main part where they can’t be missed. Someone took the time to string lights on each of them, blue, red and white. Like a traffic light, turned sideways, she can’t help but stop in her tracks for a moment. And stare. 
She likes them all, but the middle one with the white lights that sparkle like gold on this drizzly afternoon spark an idea. For a gift she has been trying to perfect. What she wants to give Rob. The one who reminds her that she’s the one needing hand-holding most days. And nights too. This time, she’ll hold his hand and guide him here. To give him the present. That stirs up inside her. Because that’s what she hasn’t given him. Enough. The present. The now.Being all here. In the moment.

Not wandering off into the rooms in her head that have stolen precious minutes from her and him. From them.

Like a balloon that hates to stay tethered, she is a wanderer by nature, but the thing about drifting is she gets lost at times. In her adventures. And when she returns, three sentences later, she tries to sneak back in through the back door of faking it. But love was never meant to be something she played like a board game. Because every roll of the dice leads to loss. Every time.

She stops in front of the prickly pine to make sure her plan will work. That it makes sense. The flicker of each white light on that middle tree turns something on in her. She sees a single bulb that sheds light on a handful of pine needles, leaving so much around it in the shadows. Like so much of the past five years, there are memories that outshine the majority of days. The other moments she’d rather leave in the dark.

She takes two steps back. Then two more. The strung lights wrap around the ten foot conifer rather messily, crisscrossed and overlapping here and there, and yet, when she steps back further, the tree seems all lit up. On fire, in fact. Breath-taking.

She knows. She can’t live under this tree. Outside. Here in the middle of town. There’s no coffee pot here, after all. This is not where every day happens. But this is as good a place as any. To make today happen. She brings her wanderings and lays them down here, one digression at a time. Because her heart has been crowded as of late. With yesterdays and tomorrows. With what ifs and whys. With hows and why nots. Questions that might need to be asked but not repeated so often they handcuff her to the fences that fence her in. And as she confesses her failings, the weight on her heart lightens, and she now there’s room. For the here. The now.  

She leaves to find Rob’s car near his office. Parked a few blocks from the downtown. From the trees. Upon arriving at the black ’98 Accord, she digs through her purse and fishes out the spare key, frantic to find a pen and scrap of paper. To write him a note. An invitation. Because she doesn’t want to wait. She can’t. Now is the time. For now.

“I’m waiting for you.

By the trees. Meet me in the middle.Now.Yours,Shay.”

She lays the note on the dash and locks the door behind her. He’ll be clocking out in less than two hours. Coffee calls her name as she walks slowly back to the trees. Then crosses the street. The door jingles when she pushes through the cafe entrance.

“You’re early.” Pete, wearing a clean white apron over his red t-shirt, leans over the counter with my latte. Ready and steaming. Just how I like it.

“Funny. I thought I was—” Shay reaches into my purse to pull out a few singles.

“Kidding. Saw you run past the store window. Figured you had an appointment and would get back here soon enough. And here you are.”

“Oh. Yeah. I needed to—” She thinks to recount the bills she just laid down.

“You don’t have to explain.” Pete makes to hand her the change, and she just smiles and shakes her head no. And just like every morning since she first discovered the best cup of joe in town two years ago, he tosses the coins into the tip jar, shrugs his shoulders, and returns the smile.

“Taking it to go. Today.” Don’t know why she feels obligated to tell him there’s a change in her routine. Perhaps she says it more for her own ears to hear. For her to start changing.

As she arrives at the tree, the one in the middle, a drizzle picks up to light rainfall. The lights dim to a dull fuzzy glow, lighting up the droplets as they fall past the radiance. She finds a park bench to sit, still dry under the movie theater awning. She’s only a few feet from the tree. The tree on fire. And she waits. In the rain.

Time permits her mind to whirl, and she wants to swing back, cursing. How long will it take? As her thoughts close in and crowd her desire to change, she runs her fingers through her hair and lays down them down. Again. Each broken dream. Each half-truth. Each failure to act. And each moment when she should have spoken. And the moments when if she had only stayed silent.

And with tears that flow like the drops of rain that keep falling, she lets go. Of yesterday. And of tomorrow. Until she’s exhausted. Empty. Until all she has left is today. Tonight. Now.

And as the flicker of street lights begin to twinkle, a figure approaches her, his raincoat hood pulled over, shadowing his face. Rob. He came!  

And with one scoop, he picks her up off the bench. Secures his arms around her and twirls around the tree like she’s ice skating on the air. And there is no sweeter place but now to be. She knows that. Now.

Funny how when Shay let go. She fell into Rob’s arms.
When she grounded herself. Her heart took flight.
And how when she fought for now. She won.

Funny how love happens…when love happens. In the middle of here. In the middle of now. And if you flip now backwards. You get the word won.  

Merry Christmas to all the Shays in the world. And to the Robs too. :)

**Ever had trouble staying focused? What did you say? Did I even ask you something? Kidding. Tell me about a time when it paid for you to be all there…in the Present! What helps you to stay focused? 

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