Monday, May 23, 2005


Let me tell you a beautiful story.

Saturday night I was working at the Cafe. I wasn't working too hard but I was busy: just the right amount. However, the other girl that was waiting tables (20 years old, very small) was not working hard. We were supposed to be taking every other table but she always seemed to be eating when a new group walked in. I didn't resent her because I wasn't working too hard but I was a little annoyed because my sense of fairness was irritated (we do have tipshare but I'm a better waitress so our total increases when I work more tables). So, I'm generally feeling good but there's this niggling dark spot in Quinn's direction. There's another niggling dark spot in the direction of the back table. A woman named Raenya had waltzed in there and sat down after pouring herself a glass of wine from under the counter (not the featured wine of the evening). She comes in lots of nights and behaves like a queen. She was the most recent runner-of-the-cafe before the resort hired Marissa and everyone loved her. The only reason that she isn't still running the cafe is that she turned down the opportunity. So, she gets treated like a semi-goddess. I, however, never worked with and don't see what all the fuss is about. I just see that she's makes us open bottles of wine that won't get finished and messes with my routine by getting things for herself. So, overall, I'm feeling pretty good, but there are two little dark spots in the environment when my attention falls in those directions.

I finally take my break and eat a little dinner. Quinn is eating again and sitting at the bar. I really didn't want to listen to her talk about herself (I think I kind of see her as a student because she's at that mentality level. She's basically an adolescent and therefore discovering her place in the world and so that's pretty much all she talks about. I don't resent it because it's so developmentally appropriate but I also don't want to be involved in it all the time.) so I sat in the booth that is as tucked away as possible, near the back across from Raenya's booth. I took a book with me and presented a pretty nice portrait of leave-me-alone-I'm-on-break, if I do say so myself. I was just beginning to let down and relax into my dinner. You know, that sweet time when the stress of keeping attentive can be let go and some quiet let in. The stress wasn't bad but the absence of it is oh-so-good. So, I was just beginning to hit that state when I hear Quinn say from the direction of Raenya's table, "Rebecca, come here." I was like that moment after you've had trouble falling asleep but you've now quieted almost enough to lose awareness of the world and drift into sleep and the phone rings. The abrupt shift from sleep barely grasped to awakeness is jarring and disappointing because you know that getting back to sleep is now out of the question. Plus, she didn't just barge into my consciousness to ask me a question, which would have been discourteous enough, she also wanted me to leave my obviously private moment and go to her, like some sort of servant. Not only that, she wants me to go over to Raenya's table. Two small dark spots combined into one big one at EXACTLY the wrong moment.

But Quinn's excitement that she wants to share with me comes from the fact that Raenya has a beautifully decorated cigar box full of lovely necklaces made from pearls, turquoise, carnelian, some dark green stone: all pretty, earthy rocks, no flash. AND, Raenya says I can have one.

Now, these are necklaces of value. They are made from semi-precious stone and Bali silver. I worked in a bead store for several years and I know that these should be sold for at least $18 and probably more like $25-$30. Also, they're beautiful. They are that Asian/Buddhist chic that I have so much trouble designing because I want the formality of the materials to match the formality level of the design. Whoever made these necklaces totally disregarded the formal nature of the stones and put them together in casual styles. So, out of this dark place of annoyance comes this gorgeous sense of, "For me?!? Really?!? I can have this?!?" I hadn't done anything special, it wasn't my birthday, I hadn't even been a particularly good server. Raenya had no obligation to me but gave me a gift anyway. The surprise and grace of the gift was even better because it came in such stark contrast to the dark feelings I was having toward the people involved. As an added bonus, Quinn was called away, so I could try the necklaces on at my leisure and look in the mirrors to assess them without having to be a girl with Quinn and comment out loud on which looked better on whom. I could think quietly about which ones complimented me best. Interestingly, although I liked other designs better than the one I chose, they all used stones that didn't match my coloring, soI had to choose one that was not my first choice for design but was the only one that looked good. Also, there were other necklaces whose stones matched my coloring, but whose designs I didn't like. The one I chose was a second-place design but still totally acceptable and there was only one like it. In other words, there was only one necklace that I liked both design and coloring and so it was like it was made just for me.

The additional beauty in this gift comes from the backstory to how Raenya got the necklaces that she was giving away. There is a small Buddhist woman on the island named Fatima. I have never met her and I didn't know her name until Raenya told me, but I've been seeing her everywhere lately. She's about 5 feet tall and shaves her head but it has grown back to stubble. She is very dark and has an Americanized Tibetan/Nepali look to her features. She is always wearing long white dresses of linen and cotton that drape dramatically and she layers several garments on top of each other artfully. However, her appearance has never struck me as artificial. She seems at home in the dramatic clothes; they are not costumes. This may have to do with the fact that she tends to wear big, ugly man-cardigans over top of them. She also wears jewelry. Great big beads of earthy stones just like those that Raenya had. She wears lots of them together and manages to pull off the look on her tiny frame because they seem such a casual addition. As I search my memories of her, I would swear that she spoke to me on a couple of occasions, engaging me to say, "Excuse me," or "Hello," in a friendly stranger sort-of way.

However, my memories are obviously wrong about that because Raenya says that she has taken a vow of silence. Apparently, her personality is so strong that I remember her engaging me as if she had spoken (the way that I most dominantly communicate) even though she had probably only smiled at me while making eye contact. Raenya was selling jewelry for her at the Farmer's Market and at the end of the day when she went to return the necklaces that had not been sold, Fatima indicated that she should give them away. (Raenya used the verb "said.") I am astounded by the levels of happiness that that sort of gift created. Fatima sacrificed getting to see the delighted faces of women like me so that Raenya could have that joy. She gave away the role of gift-bestower. That the gifts were of such unexpectedly high value to the reipients made her sacrifice even more moving. Fatima's gift to Raenya was to give her the experience of being generous with no cost to herself. Her gift to me was the experience of feeling special enough to get a gift of value without having done anything to earn it. Those are pretty fantastic gifts. Does Fatima's ability to give more than the tangible object come from her spiritual commitment or is her spiritual depth the result of making gifts like that? Either way, I'm wearing the necklace every day for awhile so that people will ask about it and I can tell the story. It is a beautiful story.

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