On the tip of my ring finger of my left hand is a small oval scar. It’s pale in colour and looks like a small cloud. Sometimes, I touch the finger tip and it takes my mind back in time. I feel like I’m still standing there. The cutting board is laying in front of me on a metal counter top. Scattered Green pieces of Jalapeño lay across it. A large silver knife is sitting in my right hand.
The air smells of roasted greek potatoes. A stainless steel fridge is behind me. Music is playing. The lyrics “Cause life’s too short so love the one you got cuz they might get run over or they might get shot” bounce around in my memory. Kinicky must be working. This was her song.
I smile over the bloody finger, the trip to the bathroom, the jalapeño burn, and the lingering question of “should I get a stitch?” The bleeding stops eventually and I go back to work as the memory fades.
Occasionally this memory slips into my mind and I am filled by it. Then I think of her. This tall woman who changed my world with her kind wisdom. I called her Boss. I called her this out of a deep respect for who she was.
I was in a bad place at the time when I met her. I felt lost in my family, my friendships and even in the world. An ambiguous add called to me in the want adds section of the newspaper. So I called the number and that’s how I first met Boss in the mall cafeteria. She looked tired. I offered her some water and got the job. She told me that I was perceptive.
I didn’t have a place to stay at the time. Couch surfing at my friends place was losing its lustre. I needed the money from this new job to pay the down payment on a room. I knew it wouldn’t be enough since I had just started the job. One of my coworkers mentioned that someone they knew had a bedroom for rent. My pradicament was on Boss’ radar. When I received my first pay check it was just enough to pay for my first months rent and damage deposit. I was so surprised and excited. When I approached her about it she casually told me that she had just made a mistake. I can see her face as I write this. Her special smile spread across her face as her knowing eyes told me that she knew I needed the help. She verbalized a plan to take the rest off of my pay checks for the next few months. She loved me with dignity, practicality and with a quiet openness.
She taught me that the world would go on spinning even when I was gone so I needed to show up to play my part. She taught me that love wasn’t a reason for someone to be in your life. “Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they are for you” she would say. She taught me that my value was not placed in my performance, but rather in my humanity. She always had grace for me even when I failed her. I know she taught me more but its hard to put it all into words.
I can’t remember how that position ended. Time stretches itself like a curtain over the memory of it all. The years passed, and my life took me to live in another part of the province. We remained distantly connected by a mutual affection, scattered phone calls and the occasional visit.
When I received the call I was walking along a road in the sunshine. The sun was setting. I didn’t have class but I was going back to the college for something. Kinicky’s familiar voice caused me to pause. I sat down on the cold concrete sidewalk. “Boss is dead Nay” she said. My mind swirled with sorrow as I retreated within myself digesting the news.
Grief is like a fire that burns you, and yet you are not consumed. It burns you with memories, guilt, regrets and the very love that is hidden in your heart. It scars every part of you while remaining unseen. No one feels the same in its wake, only griefs familiarity.
I can still feel it at times. Those invisible wounds hurt me as I think of her. The pain comes with my changing thoughts like arthritic joints seem to ache from a coming storm. If I went back and walked into that mall I would still turn my head to look for her. And, although I have lost her in this life she remains apart of me. Even in death she helps to shape who I am.
For how can my heart forget the one who, while knowing me in valleys low, saw me as though I were standing on mountains?