The trees bloomed on 23rd street. The air hung thick with the smell of flowers, coffee and burning wood from fireplaces. The sun was not out, hiding between clouds. It was a beautiful foggy day, the perfect beginnings of an artist hike. Slung over my shoulder I had my kit.
My kit is a backpack filled with things I consider useful. Pens and blank books for authoring stories and making notes; books for inspiration and reading; my tarot deck for that surprise read or two; and my portable music player. I drag all this stuff into my bag every time I set out for my hikes. Today, with spring emerging from the snow, I added my camera in the bag. I was hoping to get a few good shots of the city.
My mind wanders, my brain processing the sights, smells and sounds of the street. People hurried to and from the sidewalk to stores. Some were seated in chairs and tables, chatting, reading or drinking tea and coffee. A few seated patrons hold chain or leather leashes in their hands. Fuzzy canine companions laying patiently at their masters’ feets waiting for them to finish their rest and continue leading them on their walk.
Laughter cries out from behind me. I turn my head, smiling as I watch the two women hug in welcoming embraces. My eyes continue watching the women, hoping to capture some details of their happiness so I can paint the scene later. Since I dare not appear so foward, I continue walking the other way; not paying attention to where I’m going or what or who may be in front of me. What happens next startles me, although I know better that it shouldn’t. I run smack dab into this woman.
A faint “Oof” escapes my lips. The tranquil world around me collapses in a single jolt.
She wears a long, red, button-down shirt and black jeans. Her blonde hair frizzes in curls. A small bag is clutched tightly in her hands. The bag is nothing special, mostly black, prolly just her purse.
She smiles, takes no real notice of me as I recenter myself and my kit on my back. Instead, she extends the bag forward. I blink.
“Here you go,” she says dropping the bag into my hands.
My mouth opens, poised to explain to the woman that I am not a theif and that I didn’t want her bag. She skips off, humming. I close my mouth and watch her skip away. I blink in disbelief, my mind not knowing what to do next. The musty smells of the bag waif into my nose. It’s like a combination of years of smoke and perfume have melded into the fabric. While the bag itself is not heavy, I can tell something does appear to be inside.
I spin around in place, hoping to catch the girl. But she’s long gone. The street behind me appears the same, empty with no trace of her. Even the two giggling women are gone, having disappeared into a store. I quickly begin walking to get out off the sidewalk and onto a bench. Plopping down, I set the bag next to me. My mind wanders again. Attempting to make sense of what just happened to me. Questions quickfire through my mind. What am I going to do with this bag? What is inside it? Why me? Is she going to want it back? Do I dare open it?
It’s the last question that stops my racing mind. She said it was for me. But what if I’m not supposed to open the bag. I want to open the bag, and see what’s inside. Curiosity grips me badly. But fear of what may be inside keeps me from doing it in public. Cancelling my hike, I vow to go home and open it there. I drag the kit off my back, open it and quickly shove this gift inside. My eyes drift back to the street, hoping that no one is watching.
My heart races and while the small sting of disappointment hits my heart, I’m more ready to get home and open the bag. I briskly walk back to my place. Despite how fast my legs carry me, this time I make sure I don’t run into anyone else on my way home. The apartment building comes into sight and I rush into the door, throwing it open with a resounding WOOSH, run up the stairs and fumble to get the door unlocked. Safely inside, I slam the door behind me and turn the lock.
My heart still pounds. I catch my breath before moving away from the door. My apartment is small and modest. It’s more of a studio and I can easily cross from my bed to the small kitchen, which consists of a single stove, small refridgerator and a small counter with a sink. I set my kit on the bed and take one more long, deep breath. I sit down and pull the kit towards me as my fingers open it. Carefully, I pull the bag out. I gently place the bag into my lap and stare at it. Again the struggle between opening it and turning it to the cops battles inside my head. This is a hard decision to make. Curiosity wins over rationality as it normally does for me and I open the bag.
A deep ripping sound comes from the bag as I accidently tear and expose the black silk lining. The inside lining of the bag appears a deeper color than the light black, smooth velvet exterior. I shove my hand inside the bag and draw out the only contents. A box. The box is small. No bigger than a match box. Red ribbons done in bows wrap the box. A small card dangles from the ribbons, attached to them by a red tread. Hand written letters, carefully drawn in old english calligraphy reads, “For You.” I giggle and smile at the gift.
My inner child gets the best of me and I carefully shake the box. The box clanks as the objects inside hit the walls. Something IS inside the box. And while a small part of me is relieved that there is more to this surprise than meets the eye; I was hoping that it could have been a prank. Again, I debate whether or not to leave the box wrapped. Part of me wants to stop right here and keep the object as is. The other half wants to see what is inside. I savior the image of the box awhile longer and then begin the slow process of opening the box to see what lays inside.
First, I untie the bow. Then I remove the ribbon completely from the box. The shiny fabric slides right off the packaging in one sweep. The card, with it’s note, stays on the ribbon. As I have always done with 23 years of previous gifts, I set the ribbon aside. Since there is no wrapping paper to rip into, the process of opening the box is shortened. Turning the box around in my hands I look for the latch to open the box. There is none. Instead there is a small crevase in the lid of the box. I close my eyes as my thumbs push back on the box’s top. The lid slides off easily.
Two seconds pass before I reopen my eyes. Chuckling, I dismiss the notions of exploding boxes from my mind. Obviously, there weren’t any inside THIS box.
My gaze drops to the opened box. Two small items are nestled inside. One is a small crystal heart. It’s smooth surface glints in the sunlight streaming in from the window. The other is a piece of paper folded in half. Not wanting to disturb the stone, I carefully extract the paper. Two pictographs are brushed onto it. I recognize them as Japanese kanji. A translation in English reads below it:
Be Here Now
Another smile creaps across my face. Peace fills my body as I reflect upon the gift, the words and the stone… and their gentle reminder to always remain
in the present.