I walk by a room full of babies–the ones whom shaking-handed mothers hand over the gate to me, praying that I’ll love them as much as they do for a couple of hours–and one of my dearest catches a glimpse of me and grins. “Do you want a snuggle, Jude?” I ask him from the other side of the gate. He lights toward me as fast as his knees and hands will carry him, which says what he can’t yet: “Yes.” And suddenly there’s a downy-headed baby nuzzling into my neck, and even though he’s not mine, all I can think is, “Love.”
There’s 19 girls in my living room, stuffed on sofas and perched on bar stools, a few anxiously twirling pieces of their hair. We’re looking around at one another, some unsure where to begin, others unsure where we’re going; a few of us have run down this path before, and we’ve come back to tell the others about its beauty. We hear another knock at the door, we bring another girl in, we are sure to say right away that she belongs. Because she does. We all do.
A walk, under the sun, the wind easing the bite of the rays. Then: it’s a girl I know, perched on a bench, smiling at me; it happens to be one of my very best friends, and can I just say that it’s like someone handing you a balloon when this happens? Someone who loves you the best amid all of the scurrying feet who don’t know you one bit, just because. We sit and notice the view and we laugh for a whole 13 minutes, until we’re called back into the crowd, taking stamps of each other with us.
A boy, standing outside of my door, pulls flowers from behind his back and smiles. Hello. We go for a walk, my simple sandals flapping against the concrete, slip-slapping a beat to color our conversation. I try to paint pictures for him, snapshots he may see in an album later. He consumes my stories, laughing at all of the right parts, leading me down a darker path to all-aloneness. There’s a break in conversation, an excited pause, and then a question; we walk away an us.
I come into work, setting down my coffee, which has sloshed over the side of a regular mug because I couldn’t find a thermos, and I catch it with my eye: We did it, again. And I know we won’t win any Pulitzers. And I know we may not change the world. But then again, I know we’re making a difference to somebody. And I’m glad my name is on it.
I’m in line at Subway, dictating “spinach, tomato, pickles,” when the character behind me taps me on the shoulder. “Ay, girl,” he says by way of introduction. “Hey,” I say, keeping an eye on my sandwich. “I used to know a girl like you,” he pauses and looks me over, from curls to black skinny jeans to mint-colored toenails. “She ate turkey sandwiches too.” “Oh really?” I ask, slightly amused. “Maybe you should introduce us.” “Oh, I ain’t be knowing her anymore,” he shrugs. I laugh a little, because turkey sandwiches are the coffee of the deli world (everyone loves them), and I know she and I are different because everyone is. “Right. Chances are, we aren’t that much alike,” I conclude, taking my sandwich. Twenty steps away, I wonder if I should have advised him in his conversation-starting ways, but it’s too late now.
I take my lunch to the Quad, where there are dozens of other perfectly uncommon girls eating turkey sandwiches in the sunshine.