The aroma of vanilla and whiskey danced heavy in the air greeting each passerby with a sense of comfort and a promise of hope. Strangers haunted suddenly by fond memories of home cooked meals and time shared with loved ones. Hearts warmed and smiles broke across cold and disconnected faces unaware that the source of their elation lay hidden in the rising smoke the young man’s pipe, who puffed merrily at the synergistic blend of tobacco, herbs, and spices splashed with a flavorful hint of vanilla and Irish whiskey.
Corvin held the animal horn shaped pipe to the light of the morning sun. It was old; passed down from his great grandfather to his grandfather to him. A scratch here, an odd knick there, and the haunting scent of tobaccos, herbs, and spices long past enjoyed were the coy hints of the closely guarded secrets his pipe refused to tell.
He studied its warmth and rusticated detail with the edge of his thumb one final time before continuing to puff smoke rings towards the sky.
“Young man,” the sweet elderly voice belonging to anyone’s grandmother broke Corvin from his reverie. Her smile and gentleness conveyed warmth with each word as she reached out and affectionately squeezed his arm and drew near to his side.
Corvin inclined his head towards the elderly woman giving her his full attention.
“My father passed away when I was just a little girl. He was very kind and very gentle. Of all the wonderful things that man taught me, the most important thing he taught was to live life fearlessly. ‘Not that you won’t ever be afraid, but that you don’t let that fear keep you from living,’ he used to say.”
She paused blinking away at the tears that welled in the corner of her eyes. A battle between sorrow and joy waged in her heart quelled with a deep sigh.
Moved by compassion Corvin put an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze.
“A year ago today,” she continued with a shaky voice. “my home caught on fire. Every photo I had, especially the ones of my father, were lost in that fire. And after a while, without the photos to remind me, I couldn’t remember my father’s face.”
The sadness in her eyes gave way to a bright and glorious joy. Her voice steadied as she recalled things long lost to her mind’s eye.
“But today! As I walked past you and smelled the sweet smoke coming from your pipe, I remembered my father and the way he used to relax every evening with his pipe and a glass of scotch before going to bed. And I remembered his face! I can see him in my mind! It is so clear! Thank you, young man! Thank you!”
She threw her arms tightly around Corvin and kissed him warmly on the cheek. He smiled and chuckled warmly grateful his magic could bring light to this woman. She embraced him one last time before going on her way.
His heart raced in the exhilaration of the moment, but the thrill and excitement were quickly extinguished by the high pitched whine of a bus coming to a stop. The doors swung open bidding old passengers farewell and inviting new passengers to board. Corvin watched joyful, and not so joyful, reunions as he emptied out the ash from his pipe.
On the outskirts of his mind distant flashes of violence loomed in his peripheral. Harsh words and acts of shaming waited at the boundaries of forethought waiting to sweep in and overwhelm. He let out a deep breath and gathered up his bag, whispering to himself, “Not today. Going home is hard enough. I don’t need you to make it any harder.”
He stood tall calling to mind the wonderful things he had accomplished in the nearly ten years since he had been home. He had gone out of his way to make life better for those around him. He had become so much stronger over the years, and stood defiantly in the face of every wicked thing he had been taught.
He allowed himself a smile against the cold and boarded the bus. After a quick refueling the engine roared to life and the bus lurched onto the road bound for home.