Last week at this time, Saturday evening, I was walking home from downtown, up A Street, when a man on a bike rode by, and veered into the crosswalk ahead of me. About two thirds of the way across, the plastic bag hanging from his handlebars gave way and the oranges he was carrying started to roll into the street. He laughed and said, “It was just a matter of time.”
I started picking them up, as a couple were rolling towards me. “Do you want some?” he said. “Well, sure,” I said, I mean, they’re just oranges, right? I wouldn’t take candy from strangers, but this was just fruit. Fruit is always benign.
“Here, take this one,” he said, “it’s not cracked.” I was already carrying a bag from Juarez, because I’m on, like, some kind of flauta bender; it was bad enough when I decided I could walk with it two and a half miles, but then Juan insisted I had to hold the bag horizontally, so I was balancing it on my left forearm. I took the orange in my right hand, when he said “Here, have another– they’re really sweet, really REALLY sweet,” so I walked off with my paper bag in one hand and two oranges in the other, like a bad juggler. Despite what he said, they were cracked, because after all they had been bouncing on the asphalt, and I didn’t really want to put them in my pocket.
I’m not usually looking for signs and wonders, especially not these days, but when you’re walking for forty-five minutes, there’s a lot of space for things to pop into your head. So, after a few blocks, I thought, “Hmmm, oranges, a device of St. Nicholas. If only there had been THREE oranges.” But then it occurred to me there were three oranges, rolling in the street, of which he gave me two.
Then I thought that he certainly didn’t look anything like St. Nicholas, until I remembered ICON St. Nicholas, and he actually looked very very much like this,
only with more hair on top, and just a bit more lively.
I don’t know, I think it was an ENCOUNTER. I went home and squeezed the juice out of the oranges and drank it, and they had every flavor an orange should have, in the greatest possible intensity.
So I haven’t given up hope.