autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Fortune Cookie

The pungent aroma of curry chicken drifted through the
apartment. We sat in silent appreciation ’round the little oak table,
forks making intermittent passes through the savory heaps. Her eyes
distant and slightly lowered, she concentrates on everything as if
encountering it for the first time. The steam rises in fragrant
breezes as we dine together.

“Man, this was a good idea.” she smiles to me. I nod and grin.
The fates mandate that any comment requiring an answer at the table
will always be delivered at precise moment your mouth is full. She
giggles and we share yet another moment of implicit understanding,
instant communication… despite the fact my mouth is full and hers is
curved into laughter.

Spring rolls, fried rice, and curry chicken — food of the
gods and certainly a god-send on a Tuesday that was all too much like
a Monday. We carefully clean our plates, place the left-overs into
containers for lunch later in the week, and dive with the usual gusto
to the favorite part of the meal — the fortune cookies.

She never eats the cookie. Says its too crunchy. But the
moment of curiosity between cracking the delicate shell and puzzling
over the slip of paper inside seems a favorite thing to her… almost
as if some great and lasting secret awaits somewhere within an
orange-vanilla flavored shell. I envy her that optimism sometimes.

I break mine open to discover the lottery numbers I’ll never
play and to muse with slight cynicism over the generic perscription. I
pop half of the cookie into my mouth and look into the other half for
the fortune…. only it isn’t there. Turning a crooked smile to her I
grimace, “Wow, can you believe mine doesn’t have one?” At the same
instant, she shrieks in delight… I look up to see her eyes shining
and the smile completely enveloping her face as she gestures to me,
“Mom! Look! I GOT TWO!!!!”

Simple pleasures. Still, it seemed almost bizarre to have in
one night an empty cookie and one with double fortunes. Was this some
divine statement of irony… or of balance? Were the odds finally
cancelling one another and this, the only proof I would ever see? I
chuckled mildly at my own silliness and nodded to her, waiting to hear
what secrets were revealed this night. She read the first one, “You
will be recognized and honored as a community leader.” Hazel eyes with
a tinge of sherry shot to meet mine and we shrugged as one. She
grinned and announced, “Well, this one is yours then…” and turned to
the second and read, “Stop searching forever, happiness is just next
to you.” Her eyes rose to mine and she shrugged, “I don’t get it.”

I did.

I spend a lot of time wandering various paths and looking for
a moment of shared understanding, a glimmer of otherness that is self,
a hint, a promise, a remembrance, something I can point to and say,
“See? I belong.” or perhaps, “Look! There! In that person is something
that lives within me as well.” I look for those things that bring the
sense of belonging or similarity that means I’m not quite as alone as
I sometimes feel. I suppose in some ways, you could even say I look
for happiness.

It seems somehow darkly ironic that of all places I would
expect to find a moment of clarity, that the eureka, the epiphany, the
brilliant glow of enlightenment should arrive in a sugared shell of
orange-vanilla cookie. But perhaps that is the thing that makes it
profound. It becomes too easy to ignore the well-meaning words of
friends, or the strident voices of those who would have you perform
like some circus animal for acceptance. I’m no good at living up to
expectations… I barely manage to meet my own. Its too simple to
brush aside the people who exclaim how open they are to you and in the
same breath, carefully craft the label they would have you wear.
Perhaps it took the simplicity of a silly cookie to get my attention.
Who knows?

It may be that time will overcome the serenity of this moment.
It may be that my humanity, my contradictions, my filters of
perspective will slowly shift until curry chicken and laughter and
fortune cookies bearing truth are all but forgotten…. but I hope
not. And if it does, perhaps I will return to this rambling bit of
prose and reclaim it.

For now, I savor with slow pleasure the feeling of contentment
and love that arise as I contemplate my daughter. I embrace the joy
and fulfillment she has brought to my life, and I take a few minutes
to commemorate her and tonight in the shrine of memory… another
candle shedding soft light in the cathedral of my many blessings.