I went to the Apple store today in Chelsea to buy a new MacBook. My current MacBook is literally falling apart at the seams, and I am about to go off on my writing sabbatical, and need new hard (and soft) ware. I was meeting Jeremiah at 3, so I didn’t have a ton of time, but I had enough time to comparison shop and chat and get what I needed. The first Apple store employee who came up to me in the cavernous echoey space was lovely, and actually talked me DOWN (pricewise) from my first choice. “If all you need it to do is this this and this, then you might as well get this …” which was significantly lower. Yes. I do not need major bells and whistles. I need mega-space for all my writing, and mega-space for all my photos. He recommended the MacBook that I had originally been thinking of, and then we chatted for a bit about my cray-cray backup system, and he was awesome and helpful. I cannot remember his name. Forgive me, kind Apple store employee.
He then passed me off to another Apple guy, whose job it was to close the sale.
And here is where the magic comes in.
A word about magic. I do believe that it is all around us, at all times. You just have to be primed to recognize it while it is happening. It is tough to live in that space. Nearly impossible for me. Because if I accept the magic while it is happening, then that would mean that all of life, ALL of it, is a GIFT, right? Every single second … is a gift from God … and if I am so wrapped up in self and I miss it, then that is my fault, and I would just have to admit that in that moment I am rejecting God. And who needs that shit. It is hard to live in that space, is all I’m saying. It requires a constant awareness of the presence of God. If you say you always live there, then bully for you, but I find it challenging. But today … after a rough ROUGH couple of days … in the Apple store in Chelsea, I was primed. I was open, ready with questions, excited about my sabbatical, and (this is key) – I have already had a good experience (many times over) with Apple employees, so I was prepared to be open and receptive to their help. I am a loyal Mac user. I’m IN.
Brian had bright blue eyes and sandy hair, and a nice thick unmistakable Dublin accent. I didn’t mention it right away, though. We launched right into our Mac conversation. Here is my challenge with Time Machine. Oh, well have you tried this, this might help. No, I haven’t, I will. Thank you.
I told him what I needed. He was helpful and sweet. He was patient with my lack of technological know-how and made me feel like I could do and handle anything.
We discussed the backup system extensively. I told him I was about to go out of town for a bit, and wanted to get this handled before I left. Eventually he asked, “Where are you going?”
Our conversation went as follows:
“I’m going out to an island in the Atlantic Ocean for the month of January.”
“Totally. For a writing sabbatical of sorts.”
“Really!” (His eyes glowed. You know. The Irish and writers.)
“Where, if I may ask?”
“It’s a place called Block Island – it’s off the coast of Rhode Island. It will be bleak and wintry”
“So you’re doin’ a sort of Samuel Beckett stark and isolated thing.”
I guffawed. Happy as I could be. “Yes! Exactly!”
“So is it like a workshop with other artists or …”
“Nope. Just me.”
“How long are you goin’ for?”
“That’s enough time for a novel then, isn’t it.”
“Yes! That’s the plan.”
“Or a novella!”
By this point, we were laughing hysterically. “I must write a novella while I’m out there, you are quite right.”
“Will there be other people or …”
(Brian was very concerned.)
“There are year-round residents, yes. There’s also a pub at the end of the block.”
He lit up. “Well, now, that’s all right.”
“Exactly. I just hope I emerge from this month with my sanity intact.”
With the Irish gift for keeping the conversational ball in the air, he said, “Maybe you’ll write something like The Shining.”
I burst out laughing. “Totally. I’ll send home some pages and people will be like, ‘Uhm, should we rescue Sheila or … because these stories are effed up.”
“I’m jealous of ya. It sounds wonderful.”
All of this said as we waited for my MacBook (and accessories) to be brought up from the Willy Wonka bowels of the joint.
I decided to “go there”. In my world, that means “trust in God”. I knew what the result would be, I just needed to take the leap and accept the magic.
I said, “You’re Irish.”
“Yes. Dublin, born and raised.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About two years.”
I changed the subject, looking around at the sparsely populated (for Apple) store. “So the Christmas rush is done, ey?”
“You know, Sheila, to be honest with you … I know the economy is supposed to be in the tank and everything … but seriously, business has never been better.:
“I suppose people freaked out for a bit, but now … you’d never know the difference. Thank God for short memories, right?”
Again, pushing it into the personal. “Well, you guys have had a real economic boom, now, haven’t you?” (by “you guys” I meant “the Irish”, and I knew he would get it. The Irish always “get it”. You never have to explain yourself twice to them. They listen on the level that I find satisfying. They understand conversation on a cellular level.)
He said, “Oh, yes. There was a great boom.”
“I was there during the boom.”
“Yes, but it’s certainly tanked now.”
“I’ve heard! You had people marching on government buildings and the like!”
“The problem was is that people just weren’t prudent. They went crazy with the money.”
“That’s what I sensed the last time I was there.”
“Yes – everyone had to have two cars – everyone had to have a vacation home in Eastern Europe somewhere … and when the bottom dropped out, it was not pretty.”
“Of course not!”
“I have had friends say to me, ‘How did you have the foresight …'”
I started laughing. “You got out!”
Brian said, “The funny thing is – is that I lived in Italy for four years – ”
“Yes – so I really haven’t lived in Ireland for quite some time …”
“Well, I suppose the Irish do have a long history of living in exile.”
“Well, you really have to, don’t you?”
“So I never really participated in Ireland’s boom – but I heard stories – everyone got so materialistic suddenly -”
“Yes, I really felt that the last time I was there …”
“And of course the ones who were the least prudent were those in the government…”
“Which is where all of those protests came from.”
“Oh Jesus, of course.”
Then Brian and I veered off into an in-depth and emotionally connected conversation about the AppleCare program, and all the benefits thereof.
Me: (determined to commune with magic) “So you lived in Italy?”
“Yes, for four years.”
“What was that like?”
“Oh God, I loved it. I really miss it. I speak Italian – and it was so hard for me to learn the language, but I did it, and I finally could relax with it …”
“That is so awesome.”
“I think that’s what I miss most, speaking Italian every day. But the good thing is is that I am a designated Italian speaker –” (he showed me his badge, that had his name on it, and then below it it said “Benvenuto/Welcome”.)
“That is so cool!”
“So if someone comes here speaking only Italian –”
“I can help.”
“But of course everyone speaks English here.”
(again, with the ease and flow of Irish conversation, no struggling for power or right-ness): “Of course. It’s New York, everyone speaks English here.”
“Where did you live in Italy?”
“I lived in Milan for a year, which is ugly, but at least things work there.”
“The trams, the bureaucracy – things work there … then I moved to Rome …”
(remembering vaguely something about Italy): “Are there piles of garbage everywhere?”
“No, that’s Naples.”
“Rome is so beautiful, the people are so nice, but nothing works.”
“The bureaucracy is so annoying, it takes forever to get anything done …”
“Oh, I see.”
“To get your papers, to get permission to do anything … and then … just things like bus schedules, tram schedules … nothing works …”
“But the way they live!!”
“They just don’t care about working. It’s so laidback, so casual … everything is so relaxed …”
“And to spend, like, every weekend at the beach …”
“Totally. The Italians know how to live.”
At some point during this, all of my purchases arrived from the Willy Wonka bowels, and he went to enter all of my information in his offical Mac-store iPhone-thing they have, which basically means you don’t need a damn cashier there, which is so freakin’ awesome. I was spelling out my name for him, and he started laughing.
“Middle name is Kathleen.”
“Oh, Jesus. Have you been there much?”
“A ton. My parents took us there as kids, and we basically lived like gypsies for a month.”
“Ya did NOT.”
“Where did you go?”
“Oh, all over the West mostly. It was nuts. Recently I went to Belfast for the first time.”
He (typing in all my information): “What did ya think of it?”
“It was really interesting. I have a friend who lives there and she took me to the Starbucks. At first I didn’t realize what a big deal it was that there was a Starbucks in Belfast – so I was like, ‘Uhm, we’re going to Starbucks??'” (he laughed – totally getting it) “… but when she explained it to me …”
He started laughing. “Yes. You have to just go along with it. It’s sweet. It’s meaningful.”
“Exactly. Knowing the MEANING of the Starbucks was very important – so we went there, and posed for pictures outside of it -” (he started laughing) “Totally proud that there was now a Starbucks in Belfast and what it meant. It was great. I loved Belfast.”
My packages were all ready. I paid. I resisted the urge to propose marriage to Brian (I had been struggling with the urge since the Samuel Beckett comment); and the urge was 100% more intense when the following event occurred:
Brian handed me all of my packages.
“Thank you so much!”
“You are so welcome!”
“You have been SO helpful!”
“And like I said, with your One to One package, you can come in and get one on one tutorials and really sit with someone, go deep into these issues, to figure out what you need …”
“I can’t wait.”
I was all set with my packages. I held out my hand to him.
“Brian. Thank you.”
And Brian, my magic Irish Apple employee, took my hand, and said, in almost a declamatory manner (like: he took his moment): “Well, Sheila, as the Irish say, ‘Go raibh cóir na gaoithe i gcónaí leat. Go dtaitní an ghrian go bog bláth ar do chlár éadain.‘”
I felt my breath catch in my throat. He is speaking Irish to me? And I actually understand it? What the hell is happening? I’m in the Apple store!! Suddenly there was too much magic. Too much abundance. I couldn’t capture any of it in my hands. It was here only for a minute, hold on to it, hold on to it, remember it, because it is about to be gone … It is your responsibility to recognize it while it is happening. If you miss it, that’s YOUR bad. But here. Here is the gift. Catch it if you can. That’s God.
I knew what he had said, but didn’t say a word, just grasped his hand tight – and Brian said, “That means, ‘May the wind be always at your back, and may the sun shine warm upon your face.'”
Out of nowhere, I was in tears. I thought I might fall apart, and was horrified, but he saw my emotion and held my hand tighter.
“Best of luck to you with your writing sabbatical.”
“Thank you, thank you …”
I walked outside into the freezing sunshine, ready to walk cross-town to meet Jeremiah, and I felt like my heart had wings. It was too much. Too intense.
At that very moment, a raggedy dude with only three teeth in his head, wearing a huge beatup parka walked by me, through the throngs on that crowded sidewalk, and called out to me, specifically – and pointedly – he almost stopped in his tracks and said, right at me: “You beautiful!”
Thank you, sir.
I do not think the two events are unconnected.
It is almost the last day of this terrible year. Brian was a gift. From God.
Brian, if you’re out there, if you can hear me:
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat.
Go raibh cóir na gaoithe i gcónaí leat.
Go dtaitní an ghrian go bog bláth ar do chlár éadain,
go dtite an bháisteach go bog mín ar do ghoirt.
Agus go gcasfar le chéile sinn arís,
go gcoinní Dia i mbois a láimhe thú.