“What’s broken can always be fixed…what’s fixed will always be broken…”.
Jens Lekman, “Your Arms Around Me”
At the end of the day, I survey the damage. On the top of my left hand is a small, red gouge, one quarter of the way to full stigmata. On the pad of my left middle finger is a blister, a burn from grabbing a hot pan of rolls in my haste to provide the funeral guests with unquestionable and comforting bounty, and on my left pinky is a slash I did not notice until the sharp zap of pain when I squeezed a lemon wedge into my water. The tops of my toes are blackened by hours of contact with my trusty black clogs, and my makeup has been steamed off my face as my hair has become thick with sweat and frizz. I am unlikely, in my exhausted, shiny and afflicted form to launch a thousand ships or even a single, poorly made newspaper boat.
I left home this morning in a fog of sleeplessness and worry. I had planned today’s job, a funeral reception for a good man with a good family, down to the last homely oatmeal cookie. I had not anticipated my own leaden and mulish body, or the brain that malfunctioned like an ancient television. The channels changed abruptly and left me staring blankly at the person to whom I had been speaking. I lost my vertical hold and heard a persistent rasp of static. I didn’t leave enough time for a shower, and forgot that I would have to drive through the beery thatch of undergraduates who showed their heartfelt allegiance to the Emerald Isles by rising at the crack of dawn to lose themselves among green hot pants, plastic cups, sirens and window-shaking hip hop.
I bought thirty pounds of fruit, sliced for me in the middle of the night by the invisible handmaidens of the produce department, referred to by their boss as “the fruit girls.” I collected the plump, wanton strawberries, translucent red and green grapes, and yellow chunks of pineapple, and pushed them with gentle speed through the warm air of the parking lot. At work, I lifted them from the back of the car, felt the pull of the building, the job, the urgency of Getting Everything Done, jerked on a bag handle and felt it break. The grapes, so recently plucked and groomed, bounced haplessly onto the sidewalk.
The air was so soft; I could hear shouts, laughter, music and sirens. I wasn’t sure if I was going to cry, I didn’t have time to cry. Normal people don’t cry at work. It seemed that a woman standing outside on the first warm day of the year should turn up her face to the watery sun, feel restored, start over. It seemed too complicated.
The work saved me, the hauling of plates, smiling, making coffee, slicing, lighting sterno, washing dishes, and refilling of pitchers. We raised a cathedral of comfort and nourishment for the bereaved, and no sacrificed grapes, flesh wounds or aching muscles can diminish that day’s work. I can fix the damage now (except for the grapes). I will shower, wrap bandages around the breaches in my flesh, and sit on my porch in the still-warm air, watching the students across the street as they move, unaccountably, from riding a unicycle to playing the trumpet, and then to listening to The Smiths. They’re good kids.
I’m a good kid, too. I’m still a little messed up, but there’s nothing that can’t be fixed.