variation on a theme, for light is everywhere – in the twinkle that is/was your/our eyes, the cup that is my palm, in the chipped ceramic tumbler that housed my morning fuel, in the smallest pockets of air between the fabric that hugs/hides to embrace the unknown, the morning sun, the green in your eye – under the blue cloth cap & over the cream cellophane wrapper of your our sandwich & days sandwiched by tuna & time on toast
i had have never seen anyone eat a sandwich the way you devour(ed) your tuna on toast. clumps & clusters of carefully scooped calories. nothing like the notion of numbered halves and triangular bites to boost both adrenaline and anxiety. wrapped in cellophane. secured under foil. fanfare meets cutlery, parked in the kitchen sink. i had prepared it that morning. the morning before that and before that and before that. before I knew you, too. though – like hunger – to know is relative and we are not relatives. we share(d) no blood. not even circumstance. nothing more than a seat on the bus.
i’d mash then scoop the tuna in a small bowl while listening to tunes that both mark and mar headlines. the tunes procured through years of both growth thru grains and grime thru rains. the bowl purchased at a summer flea market. i liked the way the light from the window over my kitchen sink would make it shine. not unlike the way your eyes would light up as i boarded the bus on which we’d share a seat. each Monday. Tuesday through Friday too. patterns of consumption and conversation persist. for a seven-minute stretch north.
a fan of sport & seventh inning stretches, you made the trip not light, but lighter. i suspect the smell of the tuna irritated the turned-up noses in seats behind & in front of mine/yours/ours. perhaps the smell of the layers of cloth – heavy canvas barn jacket, worn flannel woven with shades of blue, grass-stained denim – that clothed your limbs & heart.
your full lips – both cracked & creased of balm & bruises – would pause then squash down on the crisp toast corners. tiny bits of celery in your beard. tinier bits of serendipity in your brusque posterior. i had have never seen anyone enjoy a sandwich the way you savor(ed) your tuna on toast. eyes focused on protein layers. fingers flat against sliced bread. confetti crumbs. mouthed motions & peculiar patterns. clamp. chew. chomp. swallow. smile. again. despite the heaviness of the t(issues). of the cloth(ing). of the sentiment (scent). of the engineering (engine). of the bruis(ruse)s. you were always light(er), relatively, yet never a relative. newspaper on lap. simultaneously open & shut. rays of light (& fright) of many angles. section b. page 10. sandwich crust corners. bus route lines. intersections & intersecting rays of joy (& traffic jumbles).
like knowledge, chirps, & spontaneous chatter, dialogue always meaningful, dialogue always memorable. patterns always curious. curiosity always relative, too. you both consumed and extracted knowledge through the tip of a ballpoint pen that bore the name of high-end cafes & restaurant brands that would dot the city proper. your greetings always proper. hands would lift the paper on the seat to your right. your capped head would rise, then tilt. eyes lit of synapses the color of chocolate moon pies. extra cream. extra care. Extra ___.
you consumed the air between us with a ferocity i had believed was reserved for wrestling rings and jungles. i knew not how to consume or converse with joy or jest. too much waiting. too many weights. too many crumbs. you taught me that life is lived in a series of moments, each bite, each morsel, each smile, each seat on the bus – each space between us, worth more (than) time, worth everything. for light is – & streams – everywhere.
Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of A Collection of Recollections (Next Chapter), Invisible Ink (Toho Pub), On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility and On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming, Atmosphere Press).