An alarm has been going off somewhere in my neighborhood for the past half hour. I notice it when I turn off the movie I rented, the movie that made me cry three and a half separate times, the movie that left tissues littered across the hardwood floor of the apartment I love and hate in equal parts.
The other day we took a train to downtown, emerging in Union Station like proper tourists. We walked the few short blocks to Chinatown and ate lunch at a southern restaurant squashed into a grocery store with a hundred different kinds of sodas. I got a glass bottle of birch beer, something I haven’t had since I was a kid. I remember the very first time I ordered it. I had never had it and wanted to try. The adult I was with discouraged me and said – What if you don’t like it? I’m not buying you something else if you don’t like it.
I ordered it anyway and I remember being so apprehensive holding it- why is it clear? why is it called beer? what if i really don’t like it?- and then I did like it, very much, and felt like I had won some small battle. We ate pizza and when I drank it now I tasted pizza and felt seven years old, already questioning whether I should not try things because I maybe won’t like them.
Then by some silly small coincidence S didn’t want his soda, wanted something fancier like the rest of us had gotten.
Go go go, I said. Get something else.
These small small gifts of privilege- the money to try another soda if you don’t like the first, the novelty of a train ride into a part of your city you rarely go, a sandwich stuffed with sweet potato fries and mushrooms, new headphones for Christmas that block out that annoying alarm that is still sounding, somewhere- I try never to take them for granted. Because I know they are like a dozen small gifts lined up one after the other and any day, they could vanish. So I write them down for another time, make them last as long as possible. Stretching out for days, reaching me now, much later- the novelty of carbonation and real cane sugar in an old fashioned glass bottle, cold and cloudy from the fridge.