On hope

I found myself awestruck in a candy store yesterday.

I had wandered in with the intention of buying a treat for a friend. I wanted to find some trinket or treat that would somehow communicate get well  and this is shitty but you're awesome  and  if you're not feeling well why the hell not indulge in retro candy ? The store was glittery and gleaming with glucose. Everything was very brightly lit, almost too lit, because the shelves gave off a neon glow as I walked by. There were rows and rows of saltwater taffy, long gummy bacon-shaped candies, vintage mallow candies and bottles and bottles of Jolly-Rancher-colored sodas.

Within a minute two young bespectacled men appeared before me. It was a slow night. They asked what I was looking for, and I paused, thinking, they don't really care why I'm here, they just want to sell me something. But they had very earnest faces, well-scrubbed glasses and kind, friendly smiles. They were positively eager. They reminded me of the boys I fell in love with growing up; boys who had very specific niches, boys who had creative obsessions. And before I knew what I was doing, I told them why I was there. That a person I cared about was struggling to accept bad news, that though the universe sometimes has no reason, that sometimes there is no ideal antidote, the impulse to do something, to act, to believe as if by sheer will we could redirect the cells in our own bodies--that is a fierce, powerful force. 

The boys listened and nodded and in complete sincerity recommended a brand of herbal root beer.  

It was refreshing, actually; the way they talked so confidently about the healing powers of certain herbs and spices, rattling off names of candy companies and the various ingredients they espoused, as if they were pharmacists prescribing me a drug. 

They asked how old she was, divining from that what kind of candy might have been popular when she was growing up, and if, perhaps, the simple act of seeing a now hard-to-find peanut butter brittle bar would somehow trigger a positive chain of events. "Maybe," they seemed to say, "maybe, she'll see this and..." 

I stood there in the candy shop, whose iridescent glow shone particularly bright as the sky outside grew darker, thinking of the lunch break I'd taken mere hours earlier, and how mad I'd been about something far less important than a 1980s candy bar.  I thought about all the conversations I'd had that day, and which ones were important, and which ones were not, and how on my lunch break I'd had the time to change into my running clothes, weave through the parking lot and speed out on a bike path for 30 minutes, charging because I felt like charging, thinking of the things that mattered and the things that didn't, imagining it all as a series of concentric circles. And how on that run, it had all felt so complicated, and in the candy shop, the bullshit just fell away.

I eventually purchased a small token and brought it to the counter, listening as the cashier detailed his girlfriend's father's miraculous recovery from an irregular heart condition. By this point there were other customers in the store, but both boys stood there by the counter, their faces serious and earnest, recommending this and recommending that. When I finally extricated myself from the store, I couldn't help following the glow of the windows on the street. It looked like hope.