With the same gentleness that she would handle an infant, she folded the baby clothes and set them on the shelf. She was kneeling in the back of the store as I pushed by with my cart. I looked back over my shoulder to see if she was a customer or an employee. She wore beige pants and a blouse, but no store vest. Someone had been rifling through the new clothes, that were no bigger than both her hands, and left them that way for the other customers. I watched her hold up each onesie, high, fold the shoulders back, and with a gentle flip, hold the bottom behind the other half, and set them down on the shelf –carefully, one after another, as though she were organizing the dresser drawers in her own nursery. My shopping cart had almost come to a full stop, but I decided it best to move on and stop staring over my shoulder. I couldn’t tell if she was an expectant mom, but what I could see of her shape made me doubt it. She clearly had her own kids, or maybe this extreme care was part of her lifelong wish for them. Maybe she’d lost a baby at some point, or maybe she was shopping for her daughter or her son with the gentle daydreams of a future grandmother–though she didn’t look the age. Whatever brought out her care, I could feel her heart in the way she handled these clothes that some day soon would be worn by babies she’d never know. That kind of gentleness has become nearly extinct, particularly for strangers. None of the mom’s who made their way to this section of this department store would realize the deliberate love she showed in this simple act. Instead, they would find everything neat and in order, this woman’s silent and anonymous contribution to new souls arriving in our world.
I have in me a little angel, with a faint voice, who always speaks from his heart. But I also have in me a roaring devil who screams daily—and nightly—up through the trees and into the blue and black skies. I have in my possession a little book, heavy, but no bigger than my hand, that contains all life’s truths, and maybe some insights on the afterlife. I keep on my bedside table, or on the carpet next to bed, or sometimes in bed with me, under and pillow or on the blanket. I seldom read it, though. The answers are there but they are not the ones I’m looking for. They seem to easy and they ruin the surprise that comes from flailing about and gaining wisdom form my own mistakes. My angel inside cries out louder to roll over and open the book. It feels like it would take all my energy to move, to shift my weight, and put that little book on
my chest. The angel—he gets drowned out—when the demons are screaming, seeping into me with their temptations. I can’t pick up the book. Especially not then. Lying next to me, it sits, the faux letter cover mocks me. Why defile it by opening its pages? Why ruin the ending? Who wants to reveal their own plot? The angel inside me does, and one day, when I’m through making mistakes, he’ll win out. He’ll silence the demons. I’ll lie in bed turning the glowing pages, my face lit up, my soul saved—if it isn’t too late.