Monday, September 10, 2012

Pennies Heads Up

Today at work I looked down and saw a penny. I manage two beautiful apartment buildings so when I see something on the floor I often pick it up. I want my hallways to look fabulous. As I was bending forward to remove this eye sore in my hallway I noticed that the penny was heads up. I brushed my fingers over Abe Lincoln's brown face and then stood up, leaving him to stare at the wall and wait for another hand.

When I was in my 20's I waited tables at a local bar. I wasn't a great waitress. I'm a little too easily distracted to get people's food to them while it's still hot, and my boss would often come yell at me for sneaking into the bus station behind the restaurant to smoke. Once I told some poor guy I wouldn't cocktail anymore drinks to him until he started tipping me. I made $2.13 an hour for Lord's sake. I didn't want to break into a sweat for nothin'. I just was not cut out for that kind of customer service.

At 22, as often seems to be the case with me, I was searching. Searching for the meaning of life. Searching for joy. Searching for me (I hadn't yet learned that life is about creating, not finding yourself). I lived in a funky little part of town, had a great dog, and I had just finished college. Sometimes I had a boyfriend. Sometimes I had a lover, though I hadn't yet learned how to appreciate that. I had narrowly escaped marrying a tattoo-ed ex-crackhead who told great stories, but lied like a mother fucker. I had a great group of friends. Some days I sang in a a basement...actually, maybe we played one party.

This was the summer of my life I call The Summer of The Drawn Blinds. It was a great time, but also not so great a time. I was doing some of the things that you would expect a rowdy 22 year old woman to be doing with the blinds drawn. Some days were really rough and I didn't want to get up off the couch, and some days were so damn sweet I thought my heart would explode from the sheer fun of it.

At the restaurant I worked with a guy named Steven. Tall, slim, pale, Steven was red headed, and extremely shy. He had been friends with a guy I had dated in high school. I liked his quirkiness, and was drawn to his wholesomeness. Often I would give him a ride home from work and we would talk and talk. He was always brutally honest with me and I appreciated that.

I could never tell if Steven was into me or not, but when we were in the car together I always had this overwhelming desire to reach over and kiss him, not only kiss him but ravish him a little (is a little ravishing possible?). I just wanted to rumple him up and steal a little sweetness. I also wanted to give him a taste of what Eve gave Adam; a little insight, knowledge of a life he didn't know. I wanted to see what a little wicked would do to him: molesting a 20 something sweet shy boy was nothing to me. But in the months I gave Steven a ride I never touched him. I think I was afraid of rejection, but also, as much as  I wanted to steal  his innocence, I also wanted to preserve it. I needed a little innocence in my life while I was working on pushing the limits and living with the blinds drawn.

In the car Steven and I often talked about what happened at the bar. The drunks, the craziness, the inevitable fights. More than once the sinks broke off the walls because women sat in them to pee. The restaurant was also THREE FLOORS. There was a lot for me bitch about (Steven didn't complain like me). One day after a serious bitch fest I told Steven that my favorite thing about working at the restaurant was how often I found pennies heads up. Running up and down those three flights of stairs, or cocktailing on the bottom floor there were always pennies on the floor and it seemed that more often than not those pennies were heads up.  It was so silly but the sheer number of pennies that I found heads up made me giggle. They made me feel lucky, they made me feel hope. They shone up from the floor and made me stop for a minute and feel a little joy. I laughed as I told Steven about it, truly pleased about my discovery.

We were parked in Steven's driveway as I told him about the pennies. I looked over to see his reaction, did he think I was a total moron? He smiled this small smile, tipped his head sideways, and looked at me up through his lashes. Steven's eyes twinkled and he said in his quiet voice, "That's funny, everytime I find a penny I try to turn it heads up. I leave it for someone else to find hoping it will make them smile." He was quiet for a minute. "I hope I didn't ruin it by telling you."

"No," I said, "Not at all." And now I can't remember what else I said, but I'm sure it was sarcastic and over the top, which is often what I do when I want to deflect an intense feeling. Steven got out of the car, and I started to drive away, humbled. Truly touched. Here I was sucking up all these pennies, picking them up and keeping their goodness for myself. Yet there was this sweet guy giving such a simple gift to people everyday and  he wasn't even sure whether anyone gave a shit or not. You know in The Grinch when his heart grows three sizes? That's how I felt when Steven told me about the pennies. I felt like I had just met an angel in nerd's clothing and I loved it.

In this time of my life as mother, and student, and employee, and constant searcher, I think that I am in one of the most self-centered times in my life post teen years. I am completely focused on ME and my beasts. ME and my career. ME and my please-give-me-damn-time-for-my-friggin'-self. I'm not so much of a giver these days. I'm not as thoughtful as I used to be. I think I'm a little lazy. So when I took a minute to clean up a little something from a hallway and it turned out to be a penny heads up, I thought of Steven and the immense joy he created just by making sure that Abe Lincoln was primed to look up some skirts. I rubbed Abe's cheek, gave him a little angel/nerd juju, and then I left him to work his magic.