Friday, December 21, 2007

Yes or Yes

Listen to this post:

I came home last night, or rather, this morning. I had forgotten just how long that flight is when seen from the middle seat of row thirteen, four days before Christmas, eight hours past my bedtime and three hours out of my time zone. And then that luggage carousel chugs, dies, and chugs again, cluklunk-cluklunk-cuklunk, whhooze. It twists back on itself itself like a silverfish eating its tail, spitting out bag after bag that looks like mine - but isn't. A stranger, black stubble, open coat, tire belly casts me a conspiratorial grimance. I answer it. Aren't we, the long-suffering mass of holiday travelers, ill-treated by those invisible men hauling luggage at this hour? What are they doing? Having a smoke while my ride circles in the sedan? They're probably shaking the ashes onto my new blouse, rattling the Christmas presents. All this we know of each other in a glance, or mouths arched shut, our eyes full of an accustomed script. He turns away. 4 days before Christmas, reenacting the Gospel pilgrimage to the suburban outposts that pass for the land of our fathers, the cities of our tribes. Waiting for the luggage with the speechless irritation of Joseph at the innkeeper, with Mary wheezing on the donkey 4 centimeters dilated. And then it came. Bourne along on the scales of the silverfish. Cluklunk-cluklunk-cuklunk, next to a duffel bag and a scuffed vanity case, as breezy as a leaf in a rock-choked brook. A single white sheet of 8 x 11 paper, scrawled on it in eager capitals with a black permanent marker, this message: "Will you go out with me?" And below it two boxes - one for yes, and the other for yes. Whimsy dropping into commuter hell like the son of god into a wet-wool smelling cave. I stare. I feel an impulse to check a box. It goes around the corner, and I watch the fingers point and the taut faces relax in a smile, as though someone were walking by with a lit birthday cake. It is the smile of one's worries beaten back to size, once again the cheerful, adventurous asides in a romance of courtly love.

The son of God is here. The grace is here. The joy to the world that is more than you ever hoped it would be. The most hopeless optimist was never optimist enough. Yes or yes.

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