Dinner is finished. I’ve just washed my dishes, put away my leftovers, donned my backpack, and walked down to the shopping center to buy some more cream and sugar for my coffee drinking session this evening. It is a drab, dreary, and overcast Saturday. The temperature is hovering in the forties. I am bundled up in my warmest jacket. Rosa is sitting down by the dollar store as I walk up to greet her before finishing my shopping. I sit down beside her.
I watched as Rosa pulled out two cigarettes putting both in her mouth and lighting them. She handed me the other. It was a Newport menthol. I am not fond of menthol cigarettes, but smoked it out of respect for the very kind offer.
“We were just talking about you,” She says.
“You and who?” I ask intrigued.
“Dan,” She replies. “You know. The old man that rummages through the dumpsters out back.”
“Ah, Dan,” I say as I smile. “I haven’t seen old Dan in days.”
"That’s why he was asking about you,” Rosa says. “He was wondering where you have been.”
Rosa was dressed in sweat pants and a tattered and worn coat with an old New York Yankees baseball cap pulled down low over her brow. If you didn’t look closely, she would have been easily mistaken for a man. Around her neck was hanging a pair of headphones tethered to a Sony Discman CD player. I could hear music softly emitting from it.
“What are you listening to?” I ask.
“Elvis Costello,” Rosa replies as she pulls off the headphones and hands them to me to take a quick listen. I know the tune well and I start to sing along.
“…Oh it's so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl. And with the way you look, I understand that you are not impres--,” I sang.
I pull the headphones off, stop singing, and say, “Okay, I am embarrassing myself.”
“You have a beautiful voice,” Rosa says. “I wish you wouldn’t quit.”
I blush and tell her of my three years at the University of Montevallo as a voice performance major.
"I couldn’t ever imagine going to college,” She says. “Why did you quit?”
"I was young and dumb,” I reply. “I didn’t want to be a music teacher caged in some stuffy old classroom teaching wet nosed high school kids. That is about the only way to realistically make a living with a music degree.”
I watched as Rosa pulled out two cigarettes, putting both in her mouth, and lighting them. She handed me the other. It was a Newport menthol. I am not fond of menthol cigarettes, but smoked it out of respect for the very kind offer.
“Well, I am going to head home and watch my British comedies,” I say as I flick the extinguished cigarette into the boxwoods planted in the flowerbed in front of us.
“I will tell Dan I saw you,” Rosa says.
“You tell Dan I said to stay warm,” I reply.
Rosa told me she would as I got up to walk to the grocery store and then home. As I walked up the road by the newspaper office, a tulip tree was blooming in full glory.
“Tonight’s frost will get you,” I thought.
Such is the tenuousness of life. Today’s beauty will be tomorrow’s brown and frost burned vegetation. It reminded me of my own experiences with mental illness. Much like the weather, I never know what tomorrow may bring.