BitterSweet

Sweet Musings with a Bitterly Sharp Wit


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Falling For Autumn

Fading fast, the sun still burns an angry red line across the horizon, splashing the tree branches and buildings with warm autumnal hues. Quiet envelops the streets as they quickly empty of pedestrians, ushering nightfall in more rapidly than the lazy days of endless summer that came before. Leaves crackle and flutter, pushed about by a sudden chill in the air.

That’s when it catches my eye. Hanging heavily on nothing but a brittle twig, the dappled maroon skin glistens slightly as it sways in the wind. This is no mere acorn nor late season berry, but a glorious, fully grown pomegranate, erupting out of nowhere in this urban landscape.

Dangling overhead just beyond reach, it hangs precariously upon its perch, like a fragile Christmas ornament strung up slightly too high, too close to the edge. Standing entranced, watching it twist and turn as another more powerful gust sends leaves spiraling downward all around it, I can almost see the disaster before it happens. Without warning, at the very moment I begin to turn away, the connection to the tree is severed by one last gasping rush of air, sending the delicate pomegranate flying. Instinctively, automatically, I close my eyes, inwardly wincing at the inevitable crash.

Shattered in a dozen pieces and hemorrhaging tart juices, the pomegranate stains the sidewalk, laying in ruin, cut down in its prime and cast aside by the cruelty of nature. Broken open, arils exposed to the world like an open chest of crushed rubies, the once pristine fruit lay in ruin. No one would appreciate its ephemeral beauty in such a state.

Hardly a beat passed before a neighborhood cat spotted the scene of the crime, pouncing to collect the shrapnel. Soon those sticky smashed seeds left stains across its tawny fur, as it gleefully indulged in this literal windfall. Streetlights began to flicker on, sending out a not so subtle call for retreat, but still I remained, mesmerized by the pure joy this scavenger took in its feast, relishing every morsel until not a single scrap could be considered wasted. Broken and disfigured, an unsightly mess in the eyes of the average onlooker, it was oddly comforting to know that the poor pomegranate nonetheless found a grateful audience in the end.

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Marriage

Marriage changes everything. Or, it changes nothing- It depends on who you ask. So much goes into a wedding, from the time and logistics to the pure emotional energy, it’s easy to understand how much pressure the average bride and groom must feel. Surely, after all the hard work, legally binding documents, merriment and revelry, everything must seem different from this point forward. The truth of the matter is, I think that the shift has already happened, quietly and without fanfare, before you ever discussed floral arrangements or said, “I do.” For all intents and purposes, you’ve been married since the moment you met.

Brian, I’ve never seen my sister happier than when she’s with you. Rachel, I haven’t remotely liked a single one of your suitors before this, and in case you’re still wondering, I’m officially giving this one my seal of approval. You two are so good for each other; encouraging one another through challenges big and small, laughing off the little things that don’t really matter and tackling important issues that do head-on.

The world needs more complimentary pairings like you two, because that’s what marriage really is. It’s the love you two share, nothing more and nothing less. A piece of paper won’t change that. This momentous event, joyous as it is, won’t change that. We’ll have a clearly defined date to celebrate now, happily marking the years as you grow old together, but you’ll go home tonight and realize that everything feels the same. If you ask me, that’s the truest indication of your love, because it doesn’t depend on any external validation. Your love is enough- more than enough.


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Rush Hour

Rhythmically, persistently, a small child is kicking me in the shins. Propelling his legs with blissful abandon beyond the constraints of his stroller, the rubber-soled shoes strike with a dull thud as regularly as a metronome. This is the least of my concerns though, as I struggle to find an open pocket of air in the overcrowded BART car. A nauseating bouquet of sweat, cologne, and Chinese takeout infiltrates my lungs, mingling together in one pungent, irrepressible plume. Each inhalation skews slightly to one or the other, though none holds particular appeal. Breathing becomes a careful, measured effort, akin to meditation.

Hurtling through tunnels, cutting across highways and open fields, chasing after the fading sun, the train starts and stops, yet not a single person moves an inch. Wedged firmly in place, it would be impossible to fall, even if one gave up standing on their own volition. Familiar vistas flash by through smudged windows, but from my vantage point staring directly into some tall man’s armpit, the scenery looks all the same to me. Somewhere between Embarcadero and West Oakland, I find myself wearing someone else’s headphone wires. Perhaps the whole mob, myself included, is beginning to merge into a single person.

Compared to many, my trip across the bay is mercifully short. Swimming upstream against the current of writhing arms and legs, it takes many gentle shoves, a few accidentally trampled feet, and many profuse apologies to disentangle myself from the mass when the doors finally open at my home station. The stagnant but open air has never felt so good. To all the faithful, tireless workers who continue forward on their journeys, to repeat the trip once again the next day, again and again with no end in sight: I salute you. That onerous commute is a full time job, in and of itself.


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Summer Rains

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the summer rains.

The cool relief of a cloud burst washing away the built up pressure of the day. The rumble and crack of rolling thunder in the darkness, a lumbering giant invisible in the night sky. The damp long grasses, freckled with pinpricks of dew in the morning. Each component, tactile and visceral, makes up its own flashbulb memory; distinctive, yet distinctly separate. There’s no timestamp, no geolocation, no metadata to click through and extract more information. Surely there were many rainstorms that visited through my childhood, appearing and fading away much like the last, blending into one amalgamated vision, softened by time and distance.

I don’t know how I grew so attached to the comfortable rhythm of weather patterns, so predictable that they were more reliable than the calendar as an indication of the passing days. Back then, summer was endless, stretching on through countless unscheduled weeks, lazy afternoons one after the other, not a hint of stress or guilt associated with inactivity. Punctuating the sweltering evenings with a quiet, soothing staccato on the window panes, their whispered song serving as a lullaby. Filling my mind and washing away the harsh edges, the summer rains were my meditation.

There are no more summer rains these days, far removed from the climate of my childhood. I miss them deeply because their music sang of comfort, an audible reminder of my shelter from the storm. It was my song, set on repeat for days on end; after so many years, it became my anthem.


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Weaponized Watermelon

I hit a man with a watermelon today.

Swinging like a pendulum from the shopping bag slung low on my shoulder, it connected solidly with his knee, startling a low grunt of discomfort from deep within his subconscious. Too embarrassed to make proper eye contact, I can’t say for certain whether he was in genuine pain or just surprised by the melon’s breach of personal space, but I felt the acute pain of social misconduct.

“So-orry!” The words tumbled out as awkwardly as my unstable footing, lurching forward unsteadily as the bus accelerated at random, up and down the precipitous hills of San Francisco. Still wrestling to gain full control of the wayward watermelon, the weight of it grew more burdensome with every passing city block, threatening to rip lose from the threadbare gussets already straining to contain its girth. Soon it began lashing out at other innocent bystanders, swinging wildly like a mace, threatening to enter full wrecking ball mode if only it could work up the momentum.

Even after muscling into a vacant seat, wedging the bag firmly between my feet, the little round demon still rolled about with abandon, seeking a quick getaway. Clearly, it had dreams of flying freely across the floor, bowling down anything in its path. Fighting for its life as though it understood the fate that lay ahead, it was as inconsolable as it was uncontrollable.

Mercifully, before the melon could detonate in an explosive, sticky blowout or cause further bodily harm, the doors swung open to the sweltering street, dumping us unceremoniously at our destination. Though the encounter may not have ended well for that innocent man on the receiving end of my watermelon’s wrath, his pain was not in vain; successfully taming the beast was a sweet relief, indeed.


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3 AM

No one willingly starts the day at 3am. Insomniacs toss and turn, searching for that elusive moment of respite from the waking world that seems only a myth. New parents bolt upright at the siren of a newborn’s shrill cry, sounding like an alarm in the night. Bakers and bus drivers and newscasters alike pound the snooze button on the alarm clock for just 5 more minutes before accepting their fates, duty bound to begin the daily hustle. 3am is an hour foreign to blissful sleepers comfortably immersed in a sea of dreams, swaddled in blankets, and fully unaware of the progression of time. It’s a blessing to never see those numbers glowing from the digital readout, one often taken for granted by the waking world.

4am turns greater numbers out of warm beds, thrust into consciousness with similar discord. Business begins to grind forward, travelers hustle to catch early flights, students lace up sneakers and set off on long commutes to class.

By the time 5am rolls around, life is in full swing. The sky begins to warm with the first signs of color, blushing red and pink before blossoming brightly to greet the commotion below. Coffee rouses millions more slumbering souls, perhaps more gently and easily now, convincing the sleep-starved that a few drops of caffeine might help make up. the difference.

It’s a new day by 6am. Those torn from comfort hours ago face the rapidly advancing clock with weariness; a weathered understanding that there’s still so much more time left to fill, even after so much had already come to pass. Turning to the sky, the sweetness of that sunrise, the one they watched grow from a pure black void, tastes far more satisfying than any breakfast could. Sometimes that’s the only morsel that continues to propel them forward.