It’s 12:30 in the restaurant that has a cookbook named after it, 12:30 on a spring Thursday in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. Yes, we’ll wait for the outdoor seating.
A spillage of white Styrofoam peanuts flits over the sidewalk like scattered petals. Scattered petals, helicopter seeds, swirl in the air like snowflakes. People with name badges walk with a hand over their badges, to press them down in the wind. Dogs on leashes bite other dogs on leashes. A young reporter in heels speaks into a microphone. Three mothers, pushing strollers, all look at their phones. A woman leans out a second-story window to clear tangled peat moss from a window box. The dust drifts down. Two men in polos and khakis get on skateboards and coast down the sidewalk; one wears an unstrapped helmet and pushes a button on a remote to power the board beneath. Women in headscarves, their rounded heads like pastel Easter eggs, open the door of a café. A man in a white clerical collar stops to greet a woman.
I zoom out enough to notice how diverse is everyone and everything. Some women have shoulders exposed in round cut-outs, others have shoulders under pads in blazers. Some men wear pants with a hole in the seat, some wear suspenders and a belt for their walkie-talkie gear, some have butts that look like skinny frogs, and some women do too. In the zooming, it suddenly occurs to me that every one of these people will die, and I wonder if there is such a thing as heaven, and room enough.