This week, someone broke into my car. They took two things that mattered: the iPod that Mark gave me, and the iPod that I gave to him.
I always lock my car. That night, I didn’t. I never keep both iPods in the car. That night, I did. I always bring anything valuable into the house. That night, I didn’t. We’ve lived here since 2001 and never experienced any crime whatsoever. Now, we have.
That slow, awful realization. The driver’s side door was ajar. The center console was bent down at an odd angle. The glove compartment was open. Someone violated my space. Someone got in my car. Someone walked down the street, testing car doors until they found an open one. Then they went through my car and opened up compartments until they found what they wanted. Someone was in my car. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit someone.
I didn’t cry. I seethed. Then I slipped into poor, poor, pitiful me. It’s just a thing, after all. Except that one of those iPods was Mark’s, and he loved it. That still stings.
After anger, worry set in. The boys and I have had a sort of reprieve, after years of huge misfortune. What if this was a sign? Are we headed back into deep waters? Too much – go back to anger. The police report was made. The call to the insurance was made, for what good it did. More anger. More self-pity.
I tried to keep my focus on work, but I felt miserable, depressed, oppressed. It helped that my coworker was in a great mood. Her salty, sassy humor kept me from melting into a lump of resentment. But there was a pressure, a pushing down on my heart. It is easy to slide from “Someone broke into my car?!” over to “My turn AGAIN?!” The iPods were gifts, given joyfully, received joyfully. Mark and I didn’t often splurge. To us, iPods were luxury items.
When you work with the public and you’re having a bad day, the only thing to do is slap a smile on your face and “act as if,” and go on. That afternoon, people came in, I talked, smiled, and did what I needed to do.
Some time after 1 p.m, a woman, her husband and their daughter came in. I was holding the world’s oldest guinea pig on my lap. Usually, people ask a couple of questions about the animal, and move on. This woman had a big, easy smile. She also had on big, fun earrings, peacock feathers backed on silver plastic. Heart-shaped. I haven’t worn earrings in over a decade, but these I noticed immediately. Lately, peacocks have shown up in my life a lot. Other than the neighborhood peacocks (and peahens) that hop over the fence and break into the zoo, we don’t have them at work. But just as the rhino was a sort of spirit guide in the months leading to Mark’s death, peacocks have been showing up in the months since.
When I complimented her earrings, the woman beamed. I asked where she’d bought them, and she said back home, “in the valley – we live in McAllen.” She and her family moved on through the space and I sat a while longer holding Keavey, then got up to do some paperwork.
It was a few minutes later. I looked up. The woman was smiling at me, holding out her hand. “I want you to have them.” Her earrings.
“No way!” I said. I thanked her, and said I couldn’t take them.
She insisted. “I always carry a spare pair.” She already had a pair of big blue hoops in her ears. “I want you to have them. Please.” She put the peacock earrings in my hands. Her face was angelic. Joyful. “Please.”
I have the earrings. I don’t even know her name, and I have her earrings.
The next day at work, I sat down with a coworker who is a Christian, as I am, who has been through too much, as I have. I told him the story because I needed to “confess” that my faith is a dried-up well. I’ve never had a steady faith, or a firm belief in God. I believe in people, yes, in their capacity for so much goodness. (The boys and I have been given so much, had so much done for us. How could I not see the good in people?) But believe in God? That there is some great intelligence, some plan, some order, some kind of benevolent force, some divine Love? Not so much.
But that woman. And of all things, earrings.
The woman who I used to be, when I met my beloved, that woman wore earrings and makeup and cared about how she looked. She took some pride in her appearance – maybe too much – but she is the person that my beloved noticed and fell in love with.
The earrings, I told my coworker, seemed like a sign, like “Something was taken from you today. Here’s something for you. A gift.”
I make sure that my car is locked every night.
And I am leaving the porch light on.