I have two homes away from home in Texas. One is my parents' house in The Colony, and the other is Aunt Denise's house in Austin. I arrived at the latter refuge last Saturday afternoon to a hidden key and homemade curry chicken salad in the fridge. I did make myself at home, thank you - laid on my tummy and perused Dwell, Real Simple, and National Geographic magazines. I placed miniature paper parasols in various rooms of my Aunt's house, freshened up, and glided on Lamar street to meet her at Flipnotics before venturing downtown to see Sufjan Stevens.

There are about five parking spaces on the hillside behind the coffee house, all of which were occupied, so I parked in front of Aunt Denise's workplace, The Green Mesquite. Then I walked amongst sunburned and sweaty ACL Fest-ers, crossed the street and up the small hill to Flip's. I sat outside on the deck, sipped a vanilla frappe, ate a turkey empanada, read The Austin Chronicle, and people-watched searching for my Aunt's blinking straw hat as she walked from the ACL Fest a bit sun-kissed herself. After finding each other, she navigated as I drove, and we found a parking spot not too far away from the Paramount with Sufjan's name on the marquee. Of course, I had to parallel park which I cannot do alone for the life of me, but with Auntie's brilliant coaching I managed to park without hitting the curb or the other two cars.

We found our seats with a bird's eye view as the opening band, My Brightest Diamond, mesmerized me, especially the lead singer's rock-operatic voice (she's been compared to Jeff Buckley). And even though I love the Come on Feel the Illinoise album, I was surprised by Sufjan and his band's talent. There were at least twenty people on stage, all in pink butterfly wings, Sufjan in bird wings, full strings, drums, electric guitar, and banjo. The show was like a rock opera, symphony, and singer-songwriter showcase rolled into one. We decided we actually preferred our high vantage point as we could better admire the intricate paint detail of the theatre's roof and take in the full grandeur of the concert plus the whimsical images on the movie screen. I modestly purchased only My Brightest Diamond's CD, Bring Me the Workhorse, at a mere $10.00. We sleepily drove back to Aunt Denise's house and I feel asleep in the Our Lady of Guadalupe bedroom, ending the first day of a blissful weekend in Austin, not a care in the world.

The next day started well with coffee and my Aunt's decision to rest her weary blisters after two days at ACL. We ate a healthy breakfast of yogurt mixed with fresh fruit, Kashi cereal, and cinnamon honey. After a few hours I set out for my usual haunts in Austin: BookPeople, Waterloo, and new additions of the mega-Whole Foods (6th and Lamar) and Half Price Books less than five minutes from Casa Denise. As I turned onto Lamar, I was in a funk for some reason; probably hormones or missing my husband. I was listening to My Brightest Diamond, fiddling with the volume, looking around with glazed eyes, and placing my hope in retail therapy. I saw this guy walking across the street, but I sped ahead at 40 miles an hour. Surely he sees me, so I kept going. Suddenly cold chills shot all over my body and I lost a significant amount of circulation. Horrified, I realized that not only was he still in my direct path, but he was BLIND.

You are an f______ idiot - he has a cane! I didn't utter or think actual words, but I know I was praying in my soul. This is a human being. STOP. Dear God, STOP! I pressed my foot on the brake as hard as my muscles would allow which was quite painful due to my flimsy cloth Mary Janes with no arch support. I pressed the brake harder crushing my big toe. Mister, please move! Telepathy did not work, but an angel must have leaped forward, and I'm not joking. I literally stopped centimeters away from the blind man, close enough that he only had to reach out to touch my car and wonder what lunatic nearly hit him. Thank You, God, thank You, thank You. I pulled forward, adjacent to the poor panting man now safe on the sidewalk, ignoring the angry cars honking behind me as the light turned green.

(Now audibly) Sir, are you OK?! Are you hurt? I am so sorry, so very sorry. I wasn't paying attention, I am sorry. Should I call an ambulance? I am so sorry! As I picked up my cell phone to dial 911, the kind man said with grace, "I am OK. You did not hit me. I'm OK." Sir, are you sure? I have to make sure you are OK. I am so sorry. He gulped a few more breaths and stated, "I am OK. I'm not hurt." After apologizing profusely one more time, I said, God bless you. Thank you. I drove away shaking and nearly crying.

(Again internally) I don't deserve my driver's license. What the hell was I thinking? Am I an actual idiot? I AM an idiot, the worst person in the world. Who nearly hits a blind man? HE HAD A CANE! I don't deserve Your mercy, Lord, but thank You. Thank You. Thank You for sparing that man's life. Thank You for sparing mine. Do I have dementia? I'm an idiot, Lord please forgive me. Thank You for protecting that man, and me from jail. THANK YOU.

God, I'm an idiot

Needless to say I drove slowly with wide, open eyes, shaking the whole way. Shopping seemed irrelevant, but I was pining for a comforting cup of coffee and a cookie at BookPeople. When I finally parked at the massive bookstore, I rested my head on the steering wheel and prayed again. I tried to call Johnny, but heard only his voicemail. I did not call my Aunt for fear she would kick me out on the street due to my stupidity or make fun of me which I surely deserved. Instead, I continued to thank God every five minutes, and went inside for that coffee. I calmed down and stocked up on inexpensive yet fragrant incense and two books I've wanted for awhile, Against Gravity by Farnoosh Moshiri and Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala. I trekked across the street to Waterloo.

While standing in line to purchase two other long-awaited items: Lonesome Crowded West by Modest Mouse and Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens (I should have purchased Swans at the concert since it was $13.00 at Waterloo) there was a man and his wife ahead of me in line. He leaned back a bit and placed his arm on mine. I played nonchalant thinking, What the heck? He said, "Oh, excuse me!" I laughed. He laughed, too, "I thought you were a rack, I was just resting my arm." He didn't look at me as he spoke; he looked strangely ahead, focused on nothing, and his wife shyly smiled. A white cane was strapped to his wrist. He was blind, too. The blessed irony! I assured him it was OK (more than he knew - rest your weary arm on mine all day) and purchased my music. As he purchased his stack of CDs, I had to scoot behind him to exit the store. I accidentally brushed against his other arm, offering my excuse. "Are you the rack? Goodbye," he said, "have a nice day!"

I bid him goodbye, smirking while I walked out of the store. God's redemption is undeserved and unexpected. Less than two hours after nearly maiming a blind pedestrian, God introduced me to another blind Austinite who thought I was a rack! There is an ongoing debate whether or not God has a sense of humor. I've always thought He does. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1) and as most of us have a healthy sense of humor, I think it's evident we only possess the ability to laugh because God does. But as I left Waterloo bound for Whole Foods, I knew for certain He does. I walked across the street in faith that my doppelganger would not hit me in her car, and entered the Mecca of Granola in search of sustenance.

I grabbed an Ethiopian eggplant wrap spiced with cinnamon, a piece of raw carrot cake from the Living Foods counter, Raweo cookies for later, and a large bottle of water. I found a table outside, plopped down, and pigged out. I watched grackles fight over crumbs; a guy read a book; peered at fellow hippies walking by; and listened to Son Volt songs waft way over from ACL in Zilker Park. God's redemption washed over me, tangibly, the hair on my arms stood on end and I could not stop conjuring prayers of thanksgiving. I finished the last bites of raw carrot cake, fascinated how tasty it could be without actual cake. I threw away my trash. With a full stomach I walked back to my car and drove home to Denise's house. I stopped by Half Price Books and quickly nabbed A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher. I walked into my Aunt's house smelling of Mexican lasagna, keeping my near collision a secret. I didn't peep that night while we watched Diner and sipped Cabernet. Not even the next day as we greeted cool Autumn air while shopping Tesoros and S. Congress, and munched on Mexican food at Guero's. I kept my secret zipped all the way home through the dark Texas night, saving it for confession to the world.


gregg said...

Jenni, That was such a powerful post. The painting you created with your words calls me to whisper a praise of "Hallelujah" to the God who washes over us with redemption in even the most unlikely places. Even though we don't think we deserve it.

Christine said...

Wow, Jenni. Just wow. I got goose bumps reading this! Thank God for His redemption and protection. And I'm still giggling at you being a rack.

Aunt Denise said...

Jenni, Your writing here is exquisite and moving. It made me cry. I'm sorry that I'm not (yet) someone that you can come to for comfort, but I'm really proud of the way you kept this powerful story to yourself so you could tell it in your own special voice. Often the quiet ones speak the loudest. I'm learning that from you.

Chris said...

Ah such a way with words. And God is truly amazing! We have been trying to decide if we want to teach the kids 'cane' skills - Your post is God's affirmation for us. Thank you.

Jenni said...

Thanks, y'all.

Aunt Denise - I do find comfort from you, but I felt D-U-M-B about my near collision, and I'm not as good at laughing at myself as you are! If I have any accidents during the Book Festival, I will tell you, OK?

Aunt Denise said...

Jenni, I can assure you that you will have no accidents during the Book Festival... because I will be driving. :) I'm quite adept at avoiding human being shaped obstacles that appear in my path.