All the Angels Come - Chapter 8
Jay I Am
Lieutenant Holmquist waves from the police car as she drives off. Jay is happy to get a smile. The simple joys in life, like eating watermelon. Pushing her shopping cart Jay rattles up Stockton Street. She briefly steps up on the back rail and rides, as the front pops a wheelie under her weight. Knowing your center is important, she thinks, stepping down. When a low flying jumbo jet passes over for a landing at the international airport, she slows, taking in each line in the sidewalk with an empty stare. Pain radiates from the twenty-dollar bill deep in her pocket.
“But in the midst of these joys fear would strike her,” she quotes. Her mind fills with the roar of spinning turbines, negative space, dollar bills and coins.
“I’m Jay,” she says.
She stops on the next corner, looks up, eyes riveted on the sky. She is cold, but her shivers stop. Old axons find new pathways to consciousness like vines.
Taxiing to the gate, the suit in the aisle seat is just about done with this big woman’s frequent trips to the toilet. They really should assign her two seats, he’s thinking, with a tap, tap, tap on the top of the seat with his perfectly manicured fingers. Jay lifts herself up, pressing both hands on the armrest, and steps out into the aisle to retrieve her luggage in the overhead. Unwilling to wait, passengers attempt to make way around her large frame. The suit drops a loud “Really lady?” in protest. Tap, tap, tap. Jay’s hypothyroid can’t protest back. The young woman standing next to him, suspiciously at the ready, passes him a glower, then helps Jay get her belongings down.
“You’re the sweetest dear. Thank you!” Jay says.
Bending slightly, as not to topple over, Jay extends the handle of her watermelon pattern luggage, then reaches over the seat and grasps her oversize watermelon purse.
“Let me guess. Single?” he quips, under the influence of gin, eyes rolling at the purse.
Feeling the sting in her heart, she drops the purse, and coins scatter the aisle, and under the seats along with her rolling watermelon lip balm. Grabbing the edge of the seats on either side of the aisle Jay lowers herself to her knees to pick it up.
“Never mind that lady,” the suit says, stuffing a neatly folded twenty-dollar bill into her hand, then tugs at her shoulder to coerce her up.
The young woman assists and retrieves the watermelon lip balm.
“Here you go Miss,” she says, introducing herself to Jay.
“Roxanna, and happy to be home,” extending her other hand.
“I’m Jay! Ditto, ditto, happy to be home!” she returns, tossing the twenty on suit man’s seat.
“Keep it, young man,” she says, “and have a great day.”
“I’ll have a great day when I get passed your fat ass. Maybe you should stop eating watermelon,” glancing at her luggage.
He squeezes and pushes his way around her, then tucks in his golf ball tie. His tie clip has an “M” on it. Jay smiles thinking maybe it’s an upside down “W”, or it should be.
“Fat bitch,” he says under his breath.
“Jay. My name is Jay,” she says sweetly, hoping love will show him the way.
“I’m so sorry Miss Jay,” the young woman says, helping her get organized. “People can be so heartless.”
“Oh, he’s not heartless Roxanna. He just doesn’t know how sweet life could be if he could just let go.”
“Sweet like a watermelon miss Jay?” she asks smiling.
“Sweet like a watermelon Roxanna.”
Reaching in her large watermelon purse, Jay retrieves a book.
“Thank you for being so kind. This is for you, dear.”
Without looking Roxanna knew in Jay’s hand would be a copy of Mark Twain’s Pudd'nHead Wilson.
“I know this like bible verse, dear,” Jay says enthusiastically.
“Pudd’nHead says that watermelon, and I quote, ‘is king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented.’”
Roxanna laughs and smiles as Jay places her watermelon embossed Life Coach card in the book.
“I hope you have a chance to read it, dear,” she says.
Jay manifests a smile, grinning like a watermelon slice, as they leave the plane, happy that some good came of this negative space. Roxanna is finding it hard to hold back, and counter to her better judgment, speaks out.
“Jay?” Roxana asks, accompanying her down the ramp.
“Life is not always so sweet. There are trials ahead. Stay close to yourself, to your center. It will serve you,” Roxanna explains sadly.
“What in heavens do you mean?” Jay retorts.
Roxana concedes, she will know soon enough. With Pudd’nHead Wilson tucked under her arm, she leaves waving. Roxanna already knows what the angels eat.
Jay finds her car in the lot, feeling satisfied she turned the tide and made good. She sat her heavy frame on the seat and took her thyroid pill lest she forget, and wondered why Roxanna had no luggage.
On her way home, Jay is hit broadside by an accelerating pickup truck entering the interstate just beyond the overpass. It bridges the creek where she played as a little girl. The pickup, with a “Jesus Saves” sticker in the window, and a pink ribbon on the bumper, speeds off. As her car tumbles over the embankment toward the creek, she remembers her childhood reflection in the water. Now her blood spills here. It flows east toward the river, along with her floating watermelon purse and luggage.
Jay barely remembers the arms of an angel carrying her up the embankment. She knows he had to be a strong angel to lift her three hundred pounds up to the street.
As he gave her up to the sirens of Fire and Rescue, he whispered lovingly, "El otro lado."
The intracranial pressure left her some damage, creating some negative space. So Jay spends the next six months in the hospital by the river side. The dappling reflections dance on the walls by the crucifix. Jay does not understand why she is staring out the window for her luggage, but she knows she must stay close to herself.
She repeats “watermelon”, sometimes for an hour. It helps Jay center.
She dreams of her luggage floating down river, maybe to the sea. If she finds it, she can get her life back. If only she can remember what that is. The nurse, a tall, handsome man, checks on her during his day shift, and, with a bowl of watermelon cubes and good looks, lures her back to bed. Lacking identification, no one knows who she is, yet her name is well known on the floor.
“I’m Jay,” she says.
Disabled but stable, Jay, the watermelon lady, is released. Wearing donated clothes, she stands on the sidewalk. Confused at this river that has taken her identity, she walks the opposite way, away from the negative space, up Stockton Street.
Jay stops by the coffee shop because there is a poster in the window announcing the river side farmer’s market. It’s colorful, with various vegetables, and fruits, including that of the angels. Jay walks in and hands the server the Lieutenant’s twenty-dollar bill to buy a pastry and a decaf latte.
Zack, the owner, intervenes handing her the bill back. He knows how poor folks live, just returning from South America, looking for the best beans. He hands her a gift card so that way she’s got something to eat and money to spend.
"You manifest kindness," she says.
"Thank you, Miss," Zack says compassionately.
"Oh, you can call me Jay!" she says.
The meal was perfect. The day was perfect too. Jay knows how sweet life can be if she just let’s go. Sometimes she does, when she naps in the alley where the old coffee grinds smell sweet. She dreams of her previous life, a life to come, but barely recalls these brief glances when she wakes.
As the jet passes, Jay finds herself gripping Sergeant Holmquist’s twenty-dollar bill when at once she is released from the pain.
“I”, she yells happily, “I am," She remembers the words from the plane. Her chest expands, "I am the fat bitch!"
Passersby hoot, “You go girl!” they yell.
Taking their good advice and encouragement, she turns around and heads back down Stockton toward the river. So much negative space to turn.
Feeling less chilly as she gets closer, Jay removes her coat and puts it in her shopping cart, wheels rattling over each line on the sidewalk.
Love will show me the way, she knows, because love is close to her center. Besides, there’s a farmers market just ahead, and they will more than likely be serving angel food.