A Trail of Crumbs

A Trail of Crumbs

Suzanne Aubin

I will only buy flowers. I will not stay long and I will not buy anything else. There. I will make myself go to the Farmers’ market again and amble up one side of the street and down the other in full sunlight and smile at this Summer market crowd. After many months I still cannot ease into this frothy group of people meeting friends, planning get-togethers, connecting.

They stroll in their trendy casual clothes, latte in hand and dog in tow; a competition of straw and wicker baskets, moving in groups that form, chat and dissolve around the stalls. They line up at the bakery stand, wrap their apple strudels in fresh gossip and then move on again. My neck tenses up. The aroma of baked honey and coffee grounds plays around us, at once pungent and sweet. Slivered almonds crumble onto the street from crushed croissants, pastry flakes cling to a woman’s sweater, one stuck to her upper lip. She smiles at her friend and stops to show her treasures.

I walk in the middle of them, afraid to make eye contact, a smile drawn onto my face. The Chinese lady is there with her bouquets, splashes of bright spikes around soft foliage, exactly 7 stems to a bunch, all the same length, wrapped in a paper towel and a water bag tied with a pink ribbon. Next to them, new carrots lie in perfect rows, all dirt removed.

I am going to just walk through that crowd, keep my head high and not wonder what people whisper from behind, not fear that I might see him, standing with his back to me facing boxes of cherries, his hands in his pocket, his fingers with the soft tips that I loved to kiss.

I will make this my own, reclaim the pleasure of this place. I will chat with the vendors, make small talk as if my world had not changed, as if couples holding hands did not jab at my insides like swords, as if the sharing of an ice cream did not make me flinch and look away. I will buy the flowers and walk on, holding them close to my face. Let the sunlight wash over me. It will make people smile.

Only no one does. Those whom I recognize walk by in silence, lugging their baskets. Their dogs follow, licking the crumbs from the street.