If more people watched cardboard boxes the world would be a better place. It would have to be, right?
So went my thoughts one day late February standing in the freezing rain on the curb. At the bus stop. I hadn’t needed the bus and I didn’t care if it stopped. It came though. Its large, wide tires splashed through the gutter drenching me as it screeched to a halt, outgassed hydraulic brakes and waited. The driver raised her eyebrow at me, I smirked the corner of my mouth apologetically and shook my head slightly. She smacked her gum, though her eyebrow was now frozen cock-eyed by the thought of me choosing frozen rain over her bus, but I had apologized with my smirk so I shrugged. She shrugged, smacked her gum again and put the bus into convulsions as the door complained with more hydraulic outgassing, as did the brakes as they released their control of events and the engine roared and the diesel smoke outgassed and lingered — on me, in the freezing rain, which somehow still found its way through the black stink. If fewer things outgassed, I thought, the world would be a better place.
That’s when I saw her. You won’t believe me. I wouldn’t believe me if I heard you tell this. I would be rude, roll my eyes before I realized it and laugh to ineptly cover it up. You should too. Her, you understand. Between the rain dripping and the bus splashing, a perfect Virgin Mary appeared on the side of the boxes on the stoop outside the business that was gone to lunch. Understand me. There is meaning, layers of meaning, in all this: the rain that should be snow but isn’t; the drips which had never been together before but had traveled the world, falling, joining others, flowing, waiting in a pool, flowing out in a stream, pouring over rocks, going in circles in an eddy, getting drunk by a fish and made to carry stuff around before being given more stuff and ushered out, and after a long time ending up in the ocean under the hot sun and vanishing into thin air, like vapor, to ride the air currents high and join a bunch of strangers in clouds and be blown all over the world, eventually over the mountains, the desert, more mountains, more desert, more mountains to form into a drop again and become heavy and fall, plummet to earth and splat on an awning and drip through a rip in the seam to become Holy Mary’s eyebrow. There is meaning, layers of meaning, in all this. All of it means more than I can say.
The Virgin Mary, who should be shivering more than me but maybe personal apparitions don’t do that, cocked her eyebrow at me, through it had a completely different feel from the bus driver’s eyebrow. That’s when I realized there are no random thoughts, even when they are weird. Her eyebrow was an invitation, urgent and demanding, or perhaps a summons, soft and warm. She was a woman who loved deeply, comforted greatly and expected more of me than I could ever hope to do or be, yet held and loved me despite my floundering. Her arm reached out. To me. To the world. In sorrow and with hope.
Ten drops fell around her hand, a big splat then ten more, again and again, joining into a circle and continuing down where more drops formed Jesus on a “t” on the box. She handed me the rosary, just before vanishing into a large splash that covered the boxes. And me. Cold. Cold. Cold!
I looked up, shocked out of my reverie by the icy drench. My friend. My ride. The reason I was staring at boxes.
“Hey! Sorry I’m late!”
“Can we stop by the Catholic store? My mother gave me this rosary and I’d like to know how to pray this Lent.”