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The Great Unknown

The irreverent wrapper-crinkling garnered a glance from a nearby conference-goer. Seconds later, mid-way through my foodgasmic rendition of an Herbal Essences commercial, I got more than a few consternated stares and even more furrowed brows.

So maybe a church wasn’t the best place to indulge my slightly sordid, truffle-inspired culinary ecstasy. Still, it wasn’t my fault that the little blobs of joy were eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head good.

Plus, the whole venue was a little repressive, and the guy on the cross was a major buzzkill.

While my sweet, sweet sacrilege left the more pious in the crowd exasperated, my taste buds thanked me. Actually, if they had little knees, they’d probably get down and praise the cacao gods.

Alright, enough religiosity. I’m beginning to have flashbacks to my altar boy years.

And we don’t want that.

***

The night before—somewhere between eating part of a Playboy Roll and realizing I was having a really, really good hair day—I found myself banging on a parking garage pay machine, yelling, “Where the fuck is my money?!”

That is, until I looked down and realized the dispensed change was peppered with Sacajawea dollars. (Yes, they’re still used as legal tender. Who knew?) So, that particular anger mismanagement moment was wholly unnecessary. Especially since it caused the Prius driver behind me to lock her doors. Then again, if I’d reserved a room at a downtown hotel, I wouldn’t have had to accost machines and demand their papery tribute.

Or scare eco-conscious drivers.

Instead, I ended up at a quality establishment approximately 500 miles away. There, along with my room keys, I received a handout listing area attractions. And there it was, directly beneath Biltmore Estate: Super Walmart.

Because when you go to Asheville, you go not for the Smoky Mountains National Park or the revitalized historic downtown, but the quintessential marker of American consumerist consumption.

You decide to which I’m referring.

***

Regardless of my far-flung accommodations, I made the most of it. Because when a conference is held in a trendy, historic area, there’s no shortage of foodie places for hanging out and getting bombed. I mean, er, networking.

And while the pumpkin-spice tortellini and chocolate crème brûlée and champagne-bookstore were amazing, the most poignant moment came at the end.

And isn’t that always the way? Right when you think you can mentally pack your bags and hit “Shuffle,” something smacks you across the face and shakes your shoulders.

Like a random, passing statement between two strangers.

“It’s very frightening to me, the whole unknown of it.”

I know, I know. What’s the big deal? It wasn’t some ad hoc sonnet or poem–nothing earth-shattering. 

But isn’t it bizarrely beautiful? And with such perfect delivery.

In her mid-forties, the woman sat on a stairway in a tailored suit, one hand massaging her neck and the other gesturing—her fingers entertaining a nearly spent cigarette–to a tall man in a worn tweed suit and tie. Her eyes sparkled, yet conveyed defeat. The sun beamed, and the air carried a chill, along with a few withered, colored leaves.

Albeit fleeting, the exchange jarred me to such a degree that, after I passed by, I pulled out my journal and jotted everything down, along with the time: 4:35 PM.

And why is the time important, you might wonder? Well, it’s not.

At least not right now.

But when I’m flipping back through my journal years into the future, years into the unknown, I can know that, at that particular place and time on September 20, a stranger reminded me that I’m constantly flirting with the future.

And I’ll never know what relationship I’ll have with it, nor how it will curl around my life’s edges like wind around leaves–coloring it with experience, carrying it along a new path.

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