etat libre d’orange RIEN

She shuffled her collection of holiday cards on the counter in front of me, selected one, and gave it to me, with a nudge. There was a chubby penguin on the front wrapped head to toe in a scarf. I only knew it was a penguin because there was webbed feet at the bottom plus a beak peeking out through one of the scarf folds. I nodded in approval and returned the card. She put it back in my hands and opened it to read. I read it to myself. She scrunched her brows, selected another card, and pretended to read it aloud. I read the card again, aloud this time.

Her hands shot straight into the air. There was so much force she pushed the ergonomic chair she was sitting in into the wall behind her. She rolled forwards towards the counter and shuffled through the cards again, shaking her head back and forth in frustration. I had read the wrong card. The chubby penguin with long scarf that covered almost its whole body was snatched from me and in its place put a vase of flowers. This one wasn’t a holiday card. She leaned back into her chair and waited. I read it aloud.

“Mina,

I heard about your brother’s ambitious hike in Turkey a couple of weeks ago. Anyone related to you must be a wonderful person and I wanted to send my deepest sorrows for your loss. You are a wonderful, strong woman and I know you will get through this. If your brother was as strong as you, I know he held on as long as he could and let go for the right reasons.

All my love,

Jamie.”

I looked up at Mina. Her eyes were filled to the brim with tears; they were barely being held in. One blink and the wall would break. I was disappointed the perfume I was wearing didn’t make her cry first.

I slowly closed the card and walked over to the other side of the counter. She met me halfway for a long, tight, and shoulder wetting embrace. I didn’t even know her name was “Mina.” She ended the hug by patting me on the shoulder and giving me an “it happens” shrug.

Everyone dies. It’s going to happen someway, somehow. I smiled and nodded. The number of life moments a simple smile and nod can get you though is amazing. She patted my shoulder out the door, stopped me in the doorway, took my face into her hands, and directed my view upwards. There was mistletoe. An exaggerated lip smooshing kiss followed. Our mouths had no room to move. It was just pressure and “Thank you for coming.”

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