So many radishes in my lunch. Yolanda had once joked that bestowing her huge reddish-pink radishes on him was her way of saying“I love you.”This morning she'd insisted on fixing him a bagged lunch to take on the road.
He was half-way to Memphis, at the Dickson County rest area off westbound I-40. The trunk of the Lexus was stuffed with boxes and suitcases. Stretched above the backseat was a strong bar filled with carefully hung dress shirts (white, blue, pink, ivory, and pearl gray) and sleek suits.
En route to a new job across the state, he was not excited the way he would have been when he was a fresh young MBA. He felt tired, ready to arrive and go to sleep. Tomorrow, he’d fake enthusiasm at the company offices, hoping real interest would follow.
Billboards messages flew by on the flat, straight highway: Call Wilbur Bryant to Get the Accident Settlement You Deserve, Get a Crazy Deal on Fireworks at Crazy Eddy’s, Praise Our Lord Jesus Christ at Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church.
* * *
Graham met Yolanda at the counter of the natural food store next to his Knoxville condo. Her wide green eyes and warm smile captivated him when she recommended arnica cream for muscle aches and helped him find it on the crowded shelves. Fresh-faced and dressed in flowing, gauzy clothes, she’d made no attempt to color the streaks of silver in her dark, lustrous hair. Though he was sure they had nothing in common, he stopped at the store regularly after that to pick up cheese, peanut butter, fruit, toothpaste, etc.
One night he dropped by to grab something from the deli section for dinner. She said, “The deli’s expensive. You come have dinner at my house tonight.”He ate a delicious meal with her and never left.
They were an odd pair. She had many friends; he barely knew anyone in town. Yolanda was relaxed and full of laughter; Graham was a dapper business man, always in control of himself, but he began to unwind in her presence.
He proudly built raised garden beds and a tall bin for the compost in Yolanda’s back yard, and under her tutelage he became expert at chopping vegetables for her culinary creations. They strolled the Old City Historic District on warm evenings, stopping at places with live music. On Sundays, they loved exploring Smokey Mountain National Park. Graham began to chat with neighbors and to enjoy potlucks and street fairs. His life felt rich.
Yolanda came with Graham to a company party and seemed to have a good time, but when they got home, she laughed as she flopped on the bed, saying “Thank god, that's over.” But she kissed him and let him know she liked him anyway.
In May, he was asked to transfer to the Memphis office. It meant more money, bigger projects, a better title. When he asked Yolanda if she'd like to move there with him, she responded, “Honey, East Tennessee is my spot. I'm a mountain girl.
* * *
Finishing his lunch at the rest area picnic table, the realization hit him: A treasure trove of radishes awaits me. He got into his car and looped back on I-40, away from Memphis, heading east.