Glass Maze Every jumbled pile of person

4 July 2006



I met an angel today, in Target.

I was there on important business, toaster over business. The only thing I know how to buy in Target is Advil and Tostitos, so I wondered disconsolately around the first floor for a while, failing to find toaster ovens. This was annoying because I had very important Frappuccino business to transact at the Starbucks down the road, and didn’t have time to fritter away on fruitless appliance expeditions.

So I rode the escalator up to the second floor, and passed a stocky Asian kid loitering at the top, blocking traffic. He didn’t get out of the way, so I had to squeeze around him. This additional annoyance settled on top of the trouble with the toaster oven, propelling me gently into the realm of mild pissiness.

I wondered around the second floor for a while, peering down aisles that didn’t have toaster ovens in them, then spun on my heel and went the other way. I was going past the escalators, lost in speculative Target schematics, kitchen appliance location probability graphs, Frappucino acquisition heuristics, when the Asian kid stepped out in front of me.

“Excuse,” he said, and took my hand. I stopped short, and looked at him, and all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe.

He had soft hands, a round, pleasant face, a placid, serene smile. He looked at me, but not quite at me, his eyes fixed on a point just over my head, radiating friendship, love, peace.

I froze. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know if he needed help, or if he was messing with me, or if he just wanted to hold my hand for a while. I didn’t ask. I didn’t smile. I didn’t do anything.

But he went on holding my hand. The bright fluorescent bustle of Target fell away, and we were in a bubble, the kid’s quiet serenity mixing with the ugly miasma of uncertainty leaking out of me. I was paralyzed, but the kid never stopped smiling.

And then it was over. He let go of me and stepped onto the escalator. I watched him ride down, watched him step off at the bottom and hang around there, studying the moving rubber handrail, letting it slide by under his hands. The whole episode couldn’t have lasted more than a couple of seconds.

After a while, I got on the escalator too. I didn’t know what my motives were, exactly. I didn’t know whether I’d stop and see if he needed help, or take him to wherever you take kids who’ve become detached from their parents … or what. And I’ll never know: before I got down there, a woman came up and touched his arm, and they walked away together, the kid looking around at racks of shorts, folded t-shirts, banks of sunglasses, with a kind of gentle, curious innocence.

I think we each of us meet angels at least once in our lifetimes. They come to us unannounced, when we’re vulnerable and naked, and strip us of the encrustations of adulthood, of all the callused artifice and cynicisms of age. They present themselves to our tenderest, truest selves, and ask: are you ready for this? Are you worthy of it?

I met my angel about an hour ago, at the top of the escalators, in Target, and couldn’t even find the voice to tell him that I wasn’t.

1 Comment

Posted by
6 July 2006 @ 11pm

nice. gives my husband more reason to hang around target (which is already his favourite store).

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