On Trinkets and Treasures

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On Trinkets and Treasures

On Trinkets and Treasures:

Rejection haunts CiCi. Still she dresses with pizzazz. And before dawn she stands facing her dresser, rummaging through a jewelry box—in search of a brass pendulum necklace.

It is Monday; the day CiCi routinely travels from Southern to Northern California. A shuttle driver is expected, any minute, to take her to the airport. Everything, including her roller bag, is ready to go—everything except CiCi. Her stiff fingers untangle a hodgepodge of chains and gaudy necklaces. The pendulum is gone. Did I pack it? She wonders.

Upon hearing a vehicle drive up to her house; she grabs a silver piece, and with shaky hands clasps the clunky chain around her neck. Pausing, she gazes at her reflection in the dresser mirror. HD resolution-like lines cover her face. But CiCi doesn’t see wrinkles. She sees shimmers dancing around her neck.

Ola. She sees pizzazz.

Mondays are like holidays to CiCi because she loves; meeting new people on the shuttle, and spending an afternoon at her refuge. Walking toward the front door, she rolls a lightweight bag; packed with a journal, pens, envelopes, stamps, credit card, and checkbook.

Ding-dong.

She peeks through the tiny hole in the door. The young male, standing on the porch, appears safe; even though she probably wouldn’t recognize unsafe. She cracks the door.

“Hello – – Did you schedule a shuttle?” A deep voice inquires.

“I did.” CiCi throws the door open, then she exaggerates a grand entrance out onto the porch, while pulling her bag behind.

The driver takes the bag, as he remarks, “Nice necklace, Madam.”

“Thank you. You may call me CiCi. No one calls me Madam.”

“Okay CiCi.” He half smiles. “I like your jewelry.”

“It’s okay. I must’ve lost my pendulum. A gift from my husband.”

“Lost treasure – – that’s not good.” He shakes his head side to side, then steps off the porch.

Who said it was my treasure? She keeps her thought to herself. CiCi takes giant steps to the blue van while following the driver. She calls out, “What’s your name?”

“Billy.” He opens the shuttle’s sliding side door. She steps into the van and sits in the middle seat, while he stows her bag.

“Should I sit on the rear seat – – to make room for others?”

“Others? No. You’re fine.” After settling into the driver’s seat, Billy fiddles with the GPS before he contacts dispatch. Static drowns out conglomerated words shrieking from the sound system. Then there is silence.

She taps her fingers on her lap; leans forward. Did Billy forget how to drive? She fidgets on her seat. Where are the other riders? Like a zombie, Billy sits with both hands resting on the steering wheel. The van remains motionless.

“I must get to the airport. Aren’t we ready?” CiCi prods.

“I’m ready. Not sure about you. Did they tell you how much this ride will cost?”

Cost? “I usually take this shuttle with other riders. Is the fare more for one passenger?”

“Significantly.” He answers. “Dispatch reported you reserved a private shuttle. I’ve asked for a price adjustment, but . . .”

CiCi glances at the clock on the van’s dashboard. Man’s error or an opportunity? She considers her circumstance. “Let’s go. I have a flight to catch.”

With that said, Billy turns the key in the ignition. He reverses the van out of the driveway and drives north.

CiCi sits in silence. Silence at home. Silence everywhere. She crosses her arms, her legs, then opens her mouth, “Billy, where you from?”

He steers the van a bit farther, before glimpsing through his rearview mirror. His eyes dull, his skin rich and dark. “Why do you ask?”

“I don’t know. You seem kind, interesting. I’d like to know you.”

He tilts his head as he merges the van into the center lane. “Not much to know. I grew up in Haiti and ten years ago – – ended up in California.”

“So – – your family moved here?”

“No Madam – – I mean – – CiCi – – all fourteen of my family stayed in Haiti. He pauses.”One – – remains there – – my sister.”

She swallows hard. The Haiti earthquake 2010.

“Oh – – that’s difficult?”

He slightly nods.

“Have you met – – connected with others here? You know a church family?”

“No.” His voice is faint.

“No one – – ?” Words fail her.

“I work a lot – – stay busy. It’s hard to fit in – – to belong.”

Tears surface and blur her vision. She wants to tell him she understands, but she presses her lips together. Stuffing words is easier. Without walking in his shoes, how can I understand?

Swish. Swish. The cars whiz by. Other drivers speed along, unaware of a Billy driving a blue van, or of a CiCi riding in it.

John Wayne Airport is thirty minutes farther. He maneuvers the shuttle into the carpool lane. It seems that CiCi will arrive at the airport on time. But she wishes for more time with Billy. He was created by God for a purpose. She hopes to hear about Billy’s likes and dislikes. Would he talk about the loved ones he lost to the 7.0 earthquake? Did he grasp God’s love and comfort?

As CiCi chitchats with Billy, she studies his reflection in the rearview mirror; how his eyes brighten while opening his life to her. He talks about soccer; his love of In-N-Out burgers; his dream to attend college. How he saves for tuition; sends money to his sister, and that someday he hopes to meet a girl and marry.

When the shuttle exits the freeway and travels into the airport flight departure lane, CiCi’s heart slows. Billy maneuvers the van to the curb and turns off the ignition. He fiddles with a portable credit card machine, and retrieves the statement for CiCi’s fare. Then he quickly jumps out and grabs her bag. After opening the side door, he takes her hand, guiding her step to the sidewalk.

Coyly, he gives her the fare printout. She looks at the total, then glimpses into his face. “You’re worth far more than this amount.” I’ll get my Visa. But before you charge my card, I want you to give me your address.” She unzips her bag, and removes her credit card. Meanwhile, Billy takes out a business card and writes on the back. They exchange cards. As she places her credit card within the bag, her missing pendulum tumbles curbside.

Billy bends to retrieve it. “CiCi – – your treasure?”

“You mean – – my trinket.”

Billy looks puzzled. She holds out both hands. In one she takes the necklace; in the other, she takes Billy’s hand. Their hands shake longer than is normal. Like she doesn’t want to let go; perhaps he doesn’t either. Having said goodbye, CiCi stands watching as the blue shuttle pulls away.

Next she turns and enters the terminal. Destination—Sacramento. As the aircraft cruises above an expanse of white fluff, she retrieves her carry-on bag and takes out her journal. Turning to a blank page, she begins to write . . . and write. Soon the flight attendant announces the final descent.

Within the hour, CiCi steps onto the grass of an old neighborhood park—her refuge. With the sun warming her face, she stands gazing at a well-maintained, small house situated across the street. She wonders about the family who lives where she grew up.

Falling leaves crunch beneath her shoes as she approaches the park’s focal point—a huge oak. She rubs her hand across the trunk; wishing the carved heart with names CiCi + Dave hadn’t faded. She visualizes her childhood; the rope and swing that once hung from the largest limb; how she convinced herself that Jesus would directly carry her from the swing into heaven. Back then, she would pump her legs back and forth; forcing the swing up; higher and higher.

Those days were her past.

Today, CiCi sits on a bench under the oak. She gets excited thinking about the day when Jesus literally will take her to heaven. But until then, she hopes to finish well her earthly assignments. With her bag beside her, she retrieves the pendulum necklace, and her journal. She fastens the pendulum chain around her neck to complement the shiny silver necklace. Yes, gaudy trinkets are her pizzazz. But not her treasures.

People are her treasures. And this morning she divinely met a new treasure. His name is Billy. She flips the pages of her journal until she finds today’s entry. She reads.

October 17, 2011

Jesus, today You introduced me to Billy. He drove me in a blue van to the airport. You knew his life would touch mine. And when he shared how hard it was for him to fit in – – to belong, I thought my heart would break. Perhaps his words spouted a geyser of pain still stuck in my soul; from the years my life froze in loneliness.

You know all things about me. I do not. But I believe that You used Billy to stir within me unwelcome feelings of not belonging. Like when I’m with a group; others relate with one another. They chat. They smile. And there I sit. Will I ever overcome shunning?

Rejection haunts me.

You’ve heard me repeatedly forgive those who hurt me? But I suppose the forgetting is my hardest part. Those lonely feelings don’t die. They hide. I don’t seek them, but they find me; play games with my mind. Why?

You created me to belong—especially to You. So perhaps, I should view rejection as a tool; used so that I might learn to live and love like You. And to help me better connect with the Billy’s on this earth.

Jesus, I pray for Billy. Take away his loneliness. Lead him to people who genuinely care for him. Lead him to Your kingdom—where he surely belongs.

Forever yours, CiCi.

P. S. I thank you for finding my pendulum. That old necklace won’t last forever, on earth, and neither will my aging body—even in all its pizzazz.

CiCi quickly removes an envelope, stamp, and checkbook from her bag. She addresses the envelope, sticks a stamp on it. Then she writes a check to Billy. In the memo section of the check, she prints, “For your tuition fund.”

After CiCi mails the envelope and returns home that night, she lays in bed thinking about Billy. And of Jesus’ Words.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21NASB).

(Short Story by Tomi Leslie – Fiction: based on true events.)

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