on displaced & unexpected findings : a stroke of love, luck, & good fortune
By Jennifer Schneider
the finding, an oval shaped silver locket with a mysterious inscription and a displaced hinge, was our treasure. a small seed & splash of good fortune, smaller than an inch in diameter, from a local flea market. we’d swap the finding every few months. each of us taking a turn as keeper. sometimes, we’d change the interior photograph. nestled under silver clasps. “tiny fingers,” i’d laugh as he worked with the undersized metal. “clinch and clutch good fortune,” he’d reply, his gaze focused on the locket. always with a gentle stroke. to mirror the inscription on the finding’s silver back. on my rotation, i’d place the locket on a thin, but strong, sterling chain. another flea market find. draped around my neck. a marker of past travels & found fortune. on his, he’d conceal & cradle. often securing the locket in his front shirt pocket. plaid. just to the right of his company issued tie. navy. he had recently taken a new job in security. we’d joke at the unfamiliar & curiously stiff attire. our fabric of preference woven of mismatched cotton socks and tie dye tee’s. “you’ve gone corporate on me,” i’d muse as he’d button his thick polyester shirt and knot his heavily starched tie. “not corporate, not complicit. only curious. & intent on caring for you. for us. curating us some good fortune,” he’d reply. his eyes, pools of a dark night sky specked of constellations, serious. his mouth shaped in a crescent moon smile. i’d exhale, then whisper. “i’m so lucky”. he’d blush. without fail. luck, like happiness, often relative. we found the locket at a saturday flea. the local. one of our happy places. i’d been sorting through velvet lined trays of loose charms and castaways. on a hunt. for stones to collect, cradle, then string. create new strands. & memories. each bead reminded me of flower seeds. eager to bloom in new soil. a hobby turned form of eternal therapy as i’d spend nights sipping mugs of warm milk. waiting for him. his new job paid the bills, but those payments came at a premium. priced significantly steeper than rates typical to our local flea. i worked days at the local diner. scrambled eggs. mixed pancake batter. poured coffee. mostly regular. scrubbed floors. mostly crumbs. seemed he was always on the clock. most days. consecutive nights, too. at the intersection of high demand & high risk. routine rounds. tangled knots of corrections & collections. dark corners. unruly soil. “don’t dwell on darkness,” he’d promise to reassure, “focus on seeds of light. good fortune flourishes when watered”. all hinges secure. all bolts locked. even so, i’d worry. long stretches of time & misplaced circumstance would taunt. milk would sour. i’d consume moments of displaced daydreams. some days, i’d focus on new seeds. others, all growth was stalled. most days, he’d leave by six. return home a few minutes before nine. sometimes closer to ten. i’d wait. fingers often fiddling. we’d spend weeknights sleeping - always after a coffee (decaf) and a debrief (a crossword, too) & weekends thrifting - always with a homemade mocha & a starlight mint. both of us preferred outdoor fleas. spaces ripe with new life. renewal. & no schedules. a pleasant contrast to our weeks. measured in minutes. his eye always better than mine. he’d gather findings in a small canvas tote. i’d string then post strands of newly birthed seeds for sale. online. his eyes caught the locket before mine. its hinge loose. he always eager to fix all that is broken. the back inscribed. in impossibly small print. faded strokes made the message unclear. “it’s japanese,” the vendor explained, “from a trip taken long ago. happier times”. the inscription resembled a tree. with branches in varying states of bloom. neither of us knew what it meant. neither of us cared. we happily seized the latitude – the good fortune -- to name the etching whatever we wanted (& needed) it to be. the locket’s front revealed a single flower. a single cherry blossom. both of us knew exactly what that etching symbolized. us. “the flower, it’s also japanese, sakura” the vendor continued, “for hope. and renewal”. we smiled. then nodded. in perfect unison. our flower. found & seized on the banks of the local river. many miles from its origins. made for memory moments. markers of spring. eternal hope. new life. we’d kept a single vase in the kitchen. no matter the season. would place fallen cherry blossoms in its cradle each spring. we’d scoop them from nearby concrete & gravel paths. neither of us superstitious, nor believers in chance -- just happy with each other & our good fortune -- we knew we were the locket’s intended keepers. soon, the locket influenced our daily conversation. he’d call me blossom. i’d insist he was my reason to bloom. curated corniness. perfectly suited pairings. we’d play with letters (& test our luck) over breakfast. sometimes finishing the crossword from the night before. we relished our newly birthed, then adopted, morning routine. seized small pockets of air & good fortune between his coming & my going. for renewal. he’d characterize our small studio apartment as a self-proclaimed (& claimed) slice of cherry cobbler. a bountiful buffet of happiness & good fortune. crafted predawn delicacies of thickly sliced bread & rich, creamy butter. gulped swigs of medium-dark roasted coffee. then kissed me (full-bodied, always) & whispered “sorry to leave so soon” before heading out the screen door for work. one day, he left. his scent lingered yet he did not return. routine rounds. unruly grounds. broken bodies. lockdown. life, fleeting. it was his turn with the locket. i begged for his belongings but the shirt pocket was empty. my happiness crumbled in real time, i called the hospital. the station. his supervisor. daily. i’d finger loose beads while i cradled the receiver. & waited. “bad timing” “sorry for your misfortune” “nothing” “not today”. short clips of empty syllables seeded in a new reality. as the months went on, i never lost hope. i started to sell my newly strung wares at the local flea. in between busy sessions, i’d search & gather new seeds. fingered findings of nearby vendors. & hope for our treasured finding to resurface. even if of new soil. “we bloom where we’re planted,” he’d often muse. always philosophical. curiously cliché. in the evenings, i’d sort beads. & wait. for something. a sign of some sort. for a sliver of good fortune. as the weather grew cold, i’d layer. often with extra socks. his. scented of love. & cherry blossom fabric softener. found at the local dollar store. the diner regulars had told me to clear out all drawers. start fresh. plant new seeds. i’d let their voices wash over me as i’d pour brewed coffee into freshly washed ceramic mugs. his mug forever planted in my memory. i’d never comply. his belongings – drawers stocked of crisp, laundered tee’s (folded & tucked) & rolled cotton socks (ordered by color) -- are a part of me. always will be. my own stroke of luck. a collection of life’s good fortune. one especially cold night, i grabbed two pairs of cotton crews. his image in their threads. cherry blossom pink with soft horizontal stripes. turquoise, buttercup yellow, lime green. tucked in a navy-contrasted trimmed big toe (one that appeared to be waving) was the locket. and a tiny sticky note. folded tightly. no letters faded. “don’t be mad baby. boss prohibits gems. you’re my good fortune.” & i realized, he had never left. i wear the locket daily. as i finger my forever fortune, savor my good luck, and restring displaced findings. i remain full. in bloom. of him. of pieces of replaced fortune. & blessings.
Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility, On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.
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