The girl's screaming snapped me back to reality, and the first thing that popped in my head is that I had probably scared her away. Then I realized that the crowd was roaring with laughter. Apparently the vendor had tied a string to the dead manta ray's tail, and as the girl approached it, he tugged the string and the limp ray lurched, giving the impression that it was jumping at her face. Okay. Maybe child care services should be picketing that place instead of PETA.
There was only one thing to do, just like when I was a teenager -- I had to eat a hot dog. I admit, I tore part of the bun off because of my ever-so-annoying carb-conscious mentality, but then I squared my shoulders and walked to another stall where I ate several doughnut holes to put an end to my misery. I don't care how old and sophisticated or how accustomed we are to fine food and luxury, there are times when the best luxury is not denying ourselves simple junk food. (I get suspicious of people who don't like dessert, potato chips, or popcorn.)
Fueled by a reinvigorating sugar rush, I walked briskly through the stalls and souvenir stands, only to be brought to an abrupt halt by the sight of a vegetable stand. Once again I lost my bearings. It was those eggplants. The sight of them tipped me over the edge. Phillip hates eggplants. I am not disturbed because he hates them, it's just that he'd recently become a vegetarian, and I wondered how he would manage his restrictive diet while he's away at college. "Cafeteria food is crap," I caught myself thinking, surprised that I sounded a bit like the wacky reflexologist. But I couldn't stop. "He'll be emaciated and will have to deal with hunger pangs all day long. And what will he do when he's sick?"
By now it was 4pm. I knew I could reach Phillip on his cell phone.
"Hi Phillip. You know I am in Seattle, right?" My voice was quivering.
"You're all right?"
"Yeah." I said with a sigh. And I just couldn't go on.
"Mom, what's up?"
"Oh. I was at that famous fish market. Remember you took those pictures for me?"
"Well, I was thinking of you." I paused, and those last words hung there between us for a few seconds. "I really am happy that you're going away to college." And then I started crying.
"Are you okay Mom? I mean, why are you thinking of this at the fish market? What's going on?"
"Nothing. And I saw a vegetable stand and thought of you too. You know, because you're a vegetarian."
Phillip's voice softened, "Mom. When you come home I will have to juice you." That was the sweetest thing he could have said to me. When my kids were little, I used to hold and squeeze them tightly. They in turn would scream, "Mom, you are juicing us!"
Now it was my turn to be juiced. I gathered myself up and said, "I'd love that. You know I just called to say hello and tell you how much I am proud of you." "Proud of what?" he said, "That I'm going to college or that I'm going to juice you?" I chuckled, "All that and more. Now I know Eli is at his basketball game, so tell him I called, okay?"
I felt a bit relieved after our conversation, although I wasn't 100 percent back to my old self. I left the vegetable stand and decided to go for a stroll in the open air to pull myself together. I hazily grasped the fact that the fish market and the vegetable stand stood for other things going on in my life. Phillip and I are both going through a transition. We are a bit disoriented and excited, both of us embarking on our own adventure: me with my book and my changing identity as a mom and a woman, and him his next year in college. I just hadn't given myself the chance to feel and process this change.
I was still a bit off-center and dazed. Strange and disjointed thoughts streamed through my mind: "My 30s are out the door. Thank goodness I still have good hair. I wonder if my other son Eli won his basketball game. And what about my kidneys? Those donuts were so good. I really need to drink more water. Could I drink wine instead? Does wine have carbs? I really don't want to know. I can't be like this at my own book signing this afternoon. I need to put on some blush. Ooooo that red dress in the window looks so gorgeous. When did it get so dark? My God, where am I? I'll be late for the book signing!"
It started drizzling as I hurried up Pine St. hunting for a taxi. I jumped in the instant a cab pulled over. I was surprised to see that the driver was a robust looking woman in her 70's. What is this with all these women appearing in my life? She turned to me with a cheery smile and asked where I wanted to go.
After a bit of conversation she asked where I was from. LA, I said. She gave me a hearty laugh and said, "I lived in Venice, California during the 60's. I was in my 20's and was as small as this." She had made a circle with her index finger and thumb, to indicate that she was very thin.
"You lived in Venice in the 60's? That must have been quite an experience."
"Oooh I had such a good time, I was wild and young. But you know, I love Seattle more." She glanced into the rear-view mirror to look at me. "I actually think I'm having the best time of my life now."
Somehow I knew, in that instant, that her words were meant for me. She was giving me a message. Maybe the best is yet to come. Perhaps what's awaiting us holds more promise than we can imagine. Watching the small drops of water travel along the window beside me I thought, "My life is changing. Maybe the reflexology session is taking effect after all."