Cosmic Billiards: The Moon and I


Please ask me how much TV I've watched this summer.

 No, don't.

 I will admit to sitting on the sofa (too much) simmering in shows like Hell's Kitchen, Masterchef, Food Network Star. I get this crazy satisfaction from watching other people get all stressed out when they cook, and feel quite smug in not cooking dangerous dishes like duck or risotto for dinner. 

Besides that I watch pawn shows (my son makes me, and he takes notes) and storage war shows.

 I find myself changing channels over and over looking for more shows on the War of 1812, on Andrew Jackson, on Victoria Woodhull or Annie Bessant. I find none. I look for shows that illustrate how how the whole Caribbean basin - Cuba, Florida, Dominican Republic, Texas, Mexico, Louisiana -  shares a common history with unofficial trade capitals (Santo Domingo, then Havana, then New Orleans).

  I can't find much on that so I watch Real Housewives and Restaurant Stakeout and (omg my favorite) MTV's Catfish.

The other night when I couldn't find anything on demand or on TV I found myself hooked into a dramatically narrated show on the history of earth.  

When I teach college level World History courses I usually start with "before people" and then get us right to "here comes civilization and urbanization and ooohhhhh I wonder if this will work?." 

 I'm not trained on dinosaurs or anything with "zoic" in the word (example: paleozoic trifinial protocrestazoans)  so I generally start with creation stories of many peoples (Book of Genesis; the Navajo Creation Story, etc) and move forward into understood history from there. 

But something I saw on TV might change where I start the story of history.

The documentary on the history of the earth (please don't ask me the title - it was very literal - something like The Earth: A History or History of The Earth or Earth's History). I didn't take notes on the show but I concentrated really really hard, so if I get this wrong, that's OK. 

Here's what I learned. First there's a big bang, and then comes atomic things and heavy molecular things and chemical reactions and creation of suns and of planets.

That part is familiar. 

But here it gets good. 

So after earth has been created,  it's just hanging there between (the not yet named, of course) huge Venus and darker smaller Mars. 

Then at just the right time, out of nowhere, a cosmic billiards player shot JUST the right size object towards the earth that hit at JUST the right angle with JUST the right magic zing that it didn't kill the earth but instead caused a bunch of debris that formed into the moon and sent the earth  spinning like an 8 ball on her axis balanced perfectly and delicately between night and day, always changing. 

Thanks to that collision we have the treasured company of a moon, always there, sometimes invisible.

I think the cosmic billiards player intends it to be that way. 



Father's Day Part 4: Tallying, for Fun

I can't stop researching on ancestry. Every time a find a person I feel obligated to find their mother, their father, their grave, reassembling them like a mosaic that has been there all the time.

Piece by piece I figure things out, like how a Sicilian orphan met and married a Cajun girl. I map out every mixed marriage -- Irish and English; German and English;  French and English; German and Irish.

So far I've figured out my Dad's family comes from all 12 of the colonies. Yes there were 13, but Georgia was a penal colony, created to buffer the real colonies from the Spanish/French frontier.  If count Florida as a colony (and I don't) it wouldn't change the numbers.


Father's Day Part 2: King Phillip's War / draft2

I have taught college-level American History classes for 20 years and there is a part of it that I struggle with, a part that I just don't think involves me. And yes, me.  When we look back in history it's more fun to look for ourselves, people we know, people we would have had dinner with or sent Christmas gifts to.  I have never gotten New England.

Maybe it's because I grew up in South Florida and didn't see snow or changing trees until I went to college, but  New England seemed like another America, one with a history that didn't involve familiar things like jambalaya or Castro. 


Thanks to Ancestry.com I have to change how I see this country because I just found out my Dad's people hung out in -- and played a prominent role in -- colonial New England. 

Meet Captain James Avery, my dad's 9th great-grandfather. Born in 1620 in Salibury England, he arrived during the Great Migration in 1647 and died in 1700. 

Already as historian I know this first generation of New Englanders, those that survived the early years, thrived in the climate that was much milder than England's. 

Unlike in areas of colonial Chesapeake where settlers rarely lived past 35,  colonial New England saw the emergence of a generation of tough grandparent-patriarchs.  

Before I can think another thought or try to figure out why this man is a Captain and who he fought, I am again struck with having a New England ancestor.  

The fact that he was an important figure in New England means he couldn't have been Catholic.  Catholics weren't welcome in New England and would never have become leadership; second, if he were Catholic he would have gone to a different colony -- Maryland most likely, followed closely by Pennsylvania and New York. 

I thought I came from generations of French and Irish and Italian and Spanish Catholics, and that my Dad (and my brother and myself...) are the first to challenge the church and its teachings. 

I'm relieved - and honored - to see in fact that spirit of free thinking is in our blood. 

James Avery couldn't have been too much of a free spirit though; he had to have been a practicing "visible saint" in his Puritan congregationalist faith in order to be a full member of colonial New England where there was very little  social or political separation between church and state. 

Captain James Avery is something to brag about if you are drawn to brag about ancestors who stopped the a crucial coordinated attack by natives at the time New England colonies were filling with tens of thousands of immigrant families planting farms and churches. 

Population pressures fueled tensions which became an awkwardly named war: "King Phillips War."

Here's the thing. King Phillip was a famous Spanish royal bad-ass who had been married to Queen Mary of England, and did the happy dance that a decendant of Isabella and Ferdinand was ruling of England.  

He was part of bringing Catholicism back to England, which was then repelled when Queen Mary died and Queen Elizabeth took over and Phillip went back to Spain.  

So King Phillip's War must have been a war that involved Spain, right?

No.  

In New England there was a native leader named Metacomet that went by "King Phillip" and actually let people call him that.   I wonder if someone taunted him with it, made it up as a slur, a joke, a tease, then I don't wonder because no New Englander was a friend to Catholic Spanish king.

This "King Phillip" who was neither Spanish nor Catholic nor a friend of New England, but his merciless attacks on several settlements over the course of a year ultimately lead to his own defeat. I bet the colonists knew they'd win and this King Phillip would retreat just like the other King Phillip.

This war is important for more than who won (we did!) and who lost (they did!) because it is a critical moment in American history where the colonists have no hope at all of a British army coming to their aid. On their own, from among their already strained numbers, New England colonists come together and fight their first genuine "American War."

Captain Avery's descendants would go on to found Groton CT and stay there for a generation until Avery's great-great-grandaughter Sara Jane moved to the great frontier of Kentucky. 

They prospered there for a few generations until Hayden English II moved to the Avoyelles Parrish in Louisiana where his daughter would meet Achilles Soldani, the orphaned son of Sicilian immigrants.




Capt James Avery (1620 - 1700)
is your 10th great grandfather
son of Capt James Avery
son of James Avery
daughter of Benjamin Avery
daughter of Abigail Avery
son of Sara Jane Smith
son of Weeden S English
son of Hayden English
daughter of Hayden E English II
son of Ella May English
son of Winn H Soldani
son of Gerald Michot Soldani




Father's Day 1: Ancestry.com Pretest


PART 1: PRETEST

Ancestry.com Should have a pretest. Since it doesn’t, I made one up for myself.

1) Where is your family from?
On my Mom’s side, Cuba and Spain. On her side, I’ the first generation to be born in the US. 

On my Dad’s side, New Orleans. Which, I understand, is not a country, but his people go back to the French-Canadians from Acadiana who moved to Louisiana after the French-Indian War and before the Louisiana Purchase. Parts of his family also arrived from Santo Domingo during the Haitian Revolution.

2) When do you think your first ancestors arrived in America?
For sure, the Cajuns, after 1763 but before 1803. I’ve heard we have a relative who fought the British off in the Revolutionary War, so if I had to take a specific guess I’d say 1773. 

3) What was your Ancestor’s religion? (List as many as you need to….)
Make this easier, please. Catholic. 100% down the line, French, Creole, Spanish, Irish, Italian Catholics mixed together and sprinkled with God Bless American immigrants holy water.

4) Name Every State your Ancestors Have Lived In:
Easy peasy. 1) Florida. 2)Lousiana. Done.


5) Name Every American War Your Ancestors Have Fought In:
American Revolution, I’ve seen papers on that – the Battle of Baton Rouge. I’d bet someone fought in the War of 1812, because of whole “New Orleans” battle thing. Maybe also the Civil War? I don’t know of anyone on my Dad’s side fighting in WW1 or WW2, and my dad was kindly excused from the Vietnam War.


6) What would you be shocked to find out about your family?
I’d be shocked to find out that anyone related to me knew Daniel Boone or Davey Crockett. 

I also don’t think anyone in my ancestry ever lived West of the Mississippi or north of the Mason Dixon line. I’d be shocked to be related to any famous political or military figures in American history.

7) What would you like to find out?
I’d like to find out that I’m the Queen of Spain. Or the Queen of something, that would be excellent. 

Besides that, since it’s Father’s Day, I’d like to find some treasure to share with Dad.



PART 1: PRETEST

Ancestry.com Should have a pretest. Since it doesn’t, I made one up for myself.

1) Where is your family from?
On my Mom’s side, Cuba and Spain. On her side, I’ the first generation to be born in the US. 

On my Dad’s side, New Orleans. Which, I understand, is not a country, but his people go back to the French-Canadians from Acadiana who moved to Louisiana after the French-Indian War and before the Louisiana Purchase. Parts of his family also arrived from Santo Domingo during the Haitian Revolution.

2) When do you think your first ancestors arrived in America?
For sure, the Cajuns, after 1763 but before 1803. I’ve heard we have a relative who fought the British off in the Revolutionary War, so if I had to take a specific guess I’d say 1773. 

3) What was your Ancestor’s religion? (List as many as you need to….)
Make this easier, please. Catholic. 100% down the line, French, Creole, Spanish, Irish, Italian Catholics mixed together and sprinkled with God Bless American immigrants holy water.

4) Name Every State your Ancestors Have Lived In:
Easy peasy. 1) Florida. 2)Lousiana. Done.


5) Name Every American War Your Ancestors Have Fought In:
American Revolution, I’ve seen papers on that – the Battle of Baton Rouge. I’d bet someone fought in the War of 1812, because of whole “New Orleans” battle thing. Maybe also the Civil War? I don’t know of anyone on my Dad’s side fighting in WW1 or WW2, and my dad was kindly excused from the Vietnam War.


6) What would you be shocked to find out about your family?
I’d be shocked to find out that anyone related to me knew Daniel Boone or Davey Crockett. 

I also don’t think anyone in my ancestry ever lived West of the Mississippi or north of the Mason Dixon line. I’d be shocked to be related to any famous political or military figures in American history.

7) What would you like to find out?
I’d like to find out that I’m the Queen of Spain. Or the Queen of something, that would be excellent. Besides that, since it’s Father’s Day, I’d like to find some treasure to share with Dad.



Tick Tock (Draft 1)

6:45pm, Tuesday, March 13

I'm in the same seat, the same row as before.

This time, I didn't pack kleenex. I don't think I'll cry.

I know the story, I'm immune, and anyway, we found parking so quickly this time, I just feel happy energy all ove the place.

When Barb talked at the Death and Dying class at FSU last November, the class started about two hours earlier, and parking at FSU was much tighter. We ran a bit late, but she was cool. Much cooler than I had been. Especially telling total strangers about such personal stories.

*******************
Rewind.
5:00pm, Tuesday, March 13

Zack is standing in the living room, no underwear on, crying because he has cut his knee on a yard ornament.

The doorbell rings. It's Barb.

I hoist the howling three year old under my arm, trying to keep his knee-blood and boy-dirt off my suit.

Barb isn't worried about running late. She floats into my house, a breathe of calm steadiness in a whirlwind of whining. She stands next to him and distracts him with her purring voice and silly teasing.

After his boo-boo is cleaned, she finds a ballpoint pen (a pen! in my house! miracle!) and writes smiley-faces on his band-aids.

He is hopelessly in love.

Things are calm, I can leave. I swoop down to kiss Zoe. She hugs me and murmurs "Bye Miss Barb, I sure miss you."

I pull back. "I'm your MOM not Miss Barb!"

Zoe laughs at her mistake, a little embarassed for being caught starry-eyed, and kisses me on the cheek.

*******************
Rewind Again.
Thursday, March 8, afternoon

It's the Thursday of Spring Break, and Barb picked me up to go to lunch. She drives us in the milf-mobile, which feels ridiculously high compared to my Hyundai. I clown around, pretending to be a rock-climber, checking for my safety ropes.

After sushi, we go to Wal-mart. I had just gotten a new pond, I wanted to look at yard decorations. I've never actually had the impulse to even consider yard statuary, so Barb volunteered to chaperone me.

While I was sorting through the statues of bunnies, turtles, and other silly yard-creatures, Barb stood in front of something else.

"We need to get a new one of those for the graves." I stood completely still, head cocked like a friendly dog.
She continued, "Well, things outside wear out."

They do. They do.

I didn't really want to actually buy anything, so we kept meandering.
I think she bought cat food and paper plates.

You know, Wal-Mart stuff.

************
Fast Forward
7:10pm, Tuesday, March 13

Before we entered the auditorium, we went to the cramped florescent-light bathroom. I'm used to rotten lighting, so I just wash my hands, smile at myself while I gloss up my lips and left the bathroom to make a call.

I waited about five minutes then returned to the bathroom on a search-and-rescue mission. Barb was standing in front of the mirror, pulling her blonde hair back, scowling at herself in the mirror.

She was beating herself up, focusing on perceived flaws.

Maybe she does that when she's scared. I don't blame her one bit.

Barb is sitting up front now, cool and calm.

Looking more gorgeous than she probably should, given the topic and situation.

****************
7:20pm

The professor spent the first 35 minutes of class taking roll and answering questions.

I cannot decide if he is a saint or a fool, but given his line of work -- grief counseling -- I have to lean toward saint.

He introduces Barb in these exact words, which I know for sure, because I am sitting in the back row, writing them down.

"This is Barb C. She is here to talk about her life. It is a sad story, a tough story, a story about resiliency."

He pauses, and I see about sixty heads turn slightly toward Barb, probably nodding, smiling, checking out her gorgeous dress.

And then, before Barb can tell the story herself, he tells the class how and when Barb's children, Ryan and Rachel died.

I understand that he wants to prepare them for her story, but I resent it the tinyest bit.

It's her story.

She's earned the right to tell it.

As she starts to ask the audience questions, warms them up, builds her credibility as a speaker, my mind goes back to the reason she brought me here tonight.

It's my job to figure out what we will have for dinner.

Yes, it'll be a late dinner, since this Death and Dying class doesn't end until almost 9.
I am sure we won't leave the building until almost 10.

By that time, after telling about the accident, answering student questions, and walking a room full of strangers through the darkest days and years of her life, Barb will be elated and exhausted.

And hungry.

When it's all over, and she's through bearing her soul, we will eat.

No, we will not just eat.

We will have a mini-feast, celebrate life, enjoy being happy and healthy today, and -- I am sure -- laugh loudly together.

A Birthday Story in 4 Parts

Part #1: 6 Stockings
We are at the most wonderful baby shower, Zoe and I.

Finally he is arriving, the child they have been expecting for 9 years. It is a small gathering, a happy one, but also a nervous one.

The baby could come at any time, which means Mom and Dad – two former soldiers who left the service after—well, it’s not my story to tell, and I haven’t told it, but it’s not a secret – Barb, in fact, would greet you with a warm hug and tell you herself if you were lucky enough to meet her one day.

Rob and Barb's young children Ryan and Rachel (along with their grandfather) were killed in car accident in 1999.

Since that night my friends have survived. They sleep, they eat, they go to Walmart. And their family has grown to include a daughter -- Marina from Russia -- who has brought joy, laughter, and thousands of doctors visits. They adopted her from an orphanage that had no medical history, no story of prenatal care.

As long as I’ve known Barb, she’s been wanting another baby.

We discussed this over wine the first night we met, back in August 2005 sitting on a blanket in my living room. I told her I was an accidental and begrudging parent who loved her children as people, “but the whole responsibility of socks? And meals? And butt wiping? No, those don’t play a role in my ideal life.

She shook her head, “It’s wonderful raising a family. And putting socks away and taking care of them, and the looks on their happy faces when you feed them…

Soon after that, we got up and went outside so she could smoke. “Rob won’t let me get pregnant until after I quit smoking.” It made sense, we agreed.

She smoked while pregnant with her first two children, and both came out extra early, extra small.

Over the next three years of our friendship, I watched Barb speak about her children several times, (http://laughingmelissa.blogspot.com/2007/03/tick-tock-draft-1.html), quit smoking, and survive multiple rounds of medically invasive, expensive and emotionally devastating fertility treatments.

In mid-2008, Rob and Barb signed up with an adoption agency, and I hardly saw her for months as she had home visits, wrote letters and filled out forms.

By Fall, a birth mother several states away also signed up with an adoption agency and wisely selected Barb and Rob to adopt her child.

On the December Sunday of Sean's Baby Shower, Barb sat on her screened porch, smoking, as Zoe and I walked up their long driveway, swinging presents and holdng hands both wearing long Royal blue dresses (she copied me, and if she tells you different, show her this article).

“You two are overdressed,” was her welcome, just before she hid her cigarette behind her back and hugged me with one hand.

Overdressed? No way! This is the most important and wonderful party we’ve ever been to, if I had a ball gown I’d be wearing it!

As the party settled from standing to sitting, Zoe and I found a place next to the wall where six stockings were hung. Zoe counted out in a polite whisper, “Rob, Barb, Marina…. Mom, why do they have two, each?”

My attention pulled back from the jalepeno cheese square on a ritz cracker as I counted the stockings then remembered, “Zoe, baby Sean gets one…” she nodded, “And who else?
Zoe shook her head.

“Their other two children?” I offer.

“Oh! Ryan and Rachel….I see, Oh Mom, where’s our gift for Barb?” Her voice drifted off, she stood up, and joined Marina rearranging the presents in front of the room.

Part #2: Bichos Malos
I am alone with my Blackberry, watching Zack play made up superhero games with a new friend at the park. Ass Zack and his new friend traverse a bridge in front of me, I take a picture with the phone and send it to my Mom.

The day doesn’t feel as warm as I thought it would, and I am thankful for my red shawl. A brown squirrel runs right in front of me, pursued by an albino one, and I follow their pursuit up a fat-trunked tree, half bald, draped liberally in Spanish Moss.

The Blackberry buzzes in my pocket where – unlike the phones before it which died awful deaths – it is snuggled safely in ruggled holder.

Mom replied to the picture with a text that began, “In the ER with Papi…..”
My first thought was not something I am proud of. I am not ashamed of it either, but I am surprised by how quickly it popped up. “No way, there is NO way this will happen again. He had a heart attack on my 30th birthday, and now on my 40th? Please don’t let my last visit be my last visit." (From November: Goodnight-abuelo & Everywhere-now)

Of course, I know better.

It isn’t about me, it’s about life, and love, and my mother who has heaved herself from the depth of grief this year, and stood there with a lifeline for him so he wouldn’t drown in grief of his own.

I texted her back, “Tell him his heart is still under warranty from ten years ago. And remind him about ‘bichos malos’”

She didn’t reply until several hours later, but I’m sure she passed the message on, and fully understood it.

It’s from a Spanish saying: Bad bugs (bichos malos – also meaning, cranky mean people) don’t die.

Part 3: Sean Arrives
At the baby shower, I bet Rob $20 that Baby Sean wouldn’t arrive until after January 1.

“He’ll be born on a Tuesday, I know it,” Rob said, firm and quiet.

On Tuesday, December 9, Sean Busby entered the world, tumbling from the sky through a kind woman’s body and into the arms of his real parents.

Barb texts me the news of his arrival from their car as she and Rob tackle the thirteen hour drive to where Sean has been born.

I call her back.

She has not yet held him, but the attorney emailed pictures to her.

For the first time since I met her over three years before, Barb is downright giddy.

The next day she calls again and describes his face, his gestures, his perfect eyes and face and soul.

We do not talk again for a few days, but I see her online where she uploads celebratory pictures to her Facebook.

I cannot remember the specifics of phone tag that ensued that week, but I know when she and I actually talked next.

It was the morning of December 15, and I was on my way across town, heading back from campus where I had cleaned my office after submitting final grades.

“Do you have a pen?,” she asked, and said no, that I was driving, so don’t make me write anything.

Instead, she explained what exactly had been found to be wrong with her baby Sean’s heart, that he was facing open heart surgery, and that he might go on the transplant list.

Not once did she say, “Why me?” or “This is not fair.”

And, for the record, you should know that she didn’t say, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard.”

She did say, clearly to me and the universe, “I will not bury another child. I will not do it.”

The conversation continued. I said, once, “I’m sorry.” But then continued, “I mean, I’m so glad that he has you to take care of him, and I know everyone is scared, but I’m sorry you didn’t get immediate blissful joy you were expecting and so deeply deserve.”

She sniffed. I asked what I could do, and she told me, “Call me. Just keep calling me. If I’m in the NICU or with the baby or whatever, I just won’t answer.”

And so I did.

I called and texted her Tuesday. No answer.

Again on Wednesday. No response at all.

My stomach sank.

On Thursday I tried again, not too much, just a little so she’d know I was thinking of her – only good things, of course.

Part 4: My Birthday
On the morning of my 40th birthday I woke at 5:00am to write my 1,000th blog.

I want it to be a good one, but I am not sure what it will be about. I start writing the story about the 6 Stockings and about baby Sean, then write about my Mom text about my Abuelo.

Around 6:45a I stand up to stretch and find Zoe sprawled across the sofa. Sing me happy birthday, I command, and when she doesn’t, I pull her on my lap and tickle her mercilessly while singing it to myself.

Soon enough Zack hears the commotion and snaps his fingers while strolling to us, wearing his black and yellow SpongeBob jammies, hair standing straight up in the air.

When neither of them can produce a single present for me, I sing happy birthday to myself while tickling them both at the same time.

After I drop the kids at school, my mom calls to sing me happy birthday.

I let her, and laugh, and then she tells me how lucky I am to have my grandfather here to sing to me on my 40th birthday.

She passes her phone to him and he sings to me, “Happy Birthday to you, you are my number one, I love you Missita, Happy Birthday to you.”

I clap my hands and he laughs at our little party. “You know I was your age when I left Cuba and had to start all over?”

No, I tell him. No, I didn’t know that, and I hadn’t thought of it.

I’m just so glad you’re here, today, I tell him, and I guess a doctor entered the hospital room, because I could hear a bunch of people talking and then the phone went dead.

After that, I called Barb while driving across town to my office where I needed to fetch some books on early Spanish Empire and land grants.

She answered with a choked up voice, “Let me call you back in 10.”

I turned down my car radio, tucked the Blackberry between my knees and prepared myself for the worst.

I imagined that if he passed away, she should not have to tell me. Or anyone.

In preparation for her call, I switched lanes, avoiding the highway in case I needed to pull over and cry.

She called as I passed the Walmart where I get my oil changed.

“Critical. But stable. He had open heart surgery yesterday.”

I laughed involuntarily and banged the steering wheel happily, “Best birthday present EVER!”

Barb didn’t laugh with me.

She exhaled with a sound that sounded much like she might be smoking a cigarette, standing outside the hospital, probably wearing a thick coat because where she is can’t be nearly as balmy as Tallahassee is this week.

“I said critical but stable, don’t have a party yet.”

“Are you kidding? Sean is alive. My grandfather is alive. They’re both here, and it’s my birthday. It’s a great great day.”

An hour later, I was back home and finally able to finish my 1,000th blog, happy again to have found another slice of something wonderful to write about.

Stranger in the Rain

It's a rainy day and everything seems to be taking a little longer this morning.  I sign checks, pack lunches, do hair and do a hundred other little things while trying to get myself dressed.

Finally the kids are at school and I'm on driving alone to work, playing whatever song I want LOUDLY on the radio while I mentally list all the things I have to do when I get to work.

Three things. Four things. Oh, wait, five.  I feel a sharp pain in my chest, stabbing relentlessly.
It can't be anything, really it can't be anything serious, I decide to let it go but it doesn't leave.

I pass landscapers digging holes by the I-10 exit, planting trees in the rain.  The seem to be laughing at each other and having fun in the mud. Or maybe I imagine that.

I keep going, or at least I try to, but I'm stuck between a huge WalMart truck and an over sized load.
Whatever. I keep listing what I have to do.....Write this, change that, buy this, finish that, hoping that my thoughts will make the pain go away.

I usually take one route to work, but it seems like these big trucks are going that way so I slide into a turn lane and go the other way.  I get to the intersection just as the green turn arrow turns red.

A man stands in the rain with a sign that says, "Bless You."

People ignore him.

I can't. I won't.

I roll down my window and call him over and while he weaves between other cars to come to me I search for money.

I never have cash on me because my kids are always needing $1 for this and $5 for that.  I manage to scrape a handful of silver from my ashtray and slide it into his hand.

He smiles. He has green eyes, light eyes and a face of kindness.

Before he can walk away I keep looking for more things to give him. If I had lunch with me, I would give it to him, but I don't even have lunch for myself.

Would you like a water bottle? I offer him the bottle  Zoe left in the car this morning.

The man standing in the rain accepts the water bottle laughingly and pretends to pour it on his head, since he's already wet.

I'd give you and umbrella if I had one!! I tell him, and he says he's fine but he doesn't walk away and no one else is offering him money or help or even the kindness of acting like they see him, so we keep talking.

I fish around the bottom of my purse and find a few more quarters and hand them to him.

His face changes into one of concern. How are you feeling? he asks me with a seriousness that almost makes me cry.

Me? I'm fine! (I can't say this but my eyes blurt out Of course I'm fine, I'm in a car and you're standing in the rain!)

How's your blood pressure?

Fine, I guess, I'm not big on going to the Doctor!

I'm a Doctor, he tells me, and I don't challenge him, I have no reason to believe he isn't.

How's your heart?

My heart? I ask and put my hand over that stabbing pain that I'm sure is coffee or stress or whatever.

Yes, your health is important!

Oh, I think I'm healthy enough, I say while digging another handful of change from another pocket in my laptop case and slide it into his hand. At this point he is leaning out of the rain, kinda into my car.

But are you HAPPY? he asks, very directly.

Happy? Um... I like to make other people happy, I tell him and he shakes his head at me like I'm a silly child.

You HAVE to be happy. You deserve it, he tells me in a voice with great seriousness and gravity that hits a nerve so raw that tears well up in my eyes.

 I can't cry, I didn't bring mascara with me to work, so I bite my lip hard.

Just then the light changes and I get my green arrow to turn.

I tell him goodbye and thank you, and as I roll my window up he shouts Be happy! It matters!! Doctor's orders! 

As I drive off I look back in my rear view window and see him dancing between the cars and puddles, sending himself off into his own happiness and leaving me to figure out my own.