I remember that mezzanine.
Tears do that, you know. Remind you.
And they fall, unbidden. We don’t want them to; they just come.
So, with the salty liquid running down my cheeks I remember that day, now over thirty-five years ago.
Visiting my folks in my childhood home, I agreed to ride along with my old friend as he made his sales rounds one summer afternoon.
We stopped by a produce warehouse, a corrugated metal structure where they prepared vegetables for shipment to various marketplaces. The building my friend entered was the onion operation. Right outside the metal building—by the truckloads—the dirty yellowish bulbs had been hauled from the fields and were dumped onto the conveyor lines that would carry them though the process.
The process would change them dramatically. On that summer afternoon long ago, it would change me, too.
From a filthy orb with roots hanging off one end and stem jutting out of the other, to a beautiful shiny sphere just waiting to be sliced, battered, and deep fried—turning out the most delicious tasting snack you could ask for—the transformation was radical.
But, you ask, what about the mezzanine? Where are the tears?
I’m getting there. Soon, there would more than enough tears to last a man a lifetime.
I hung back in the factory while my friend talked with his contact there. In just a moment though, he was beckoning with his hand for me to follow him on into the plant. He explained that he needed to check the stock levels for the products he provided to the company.
As I prepared to follow him up a steel staircase, he gave me a hint—just a hint—about what was to come.
You’ll want to stay close. Don’t worry, I won’t walk away from you.
Stay close? Why would I need him near? I snickered. As if I needed someone to hold my hand climbing up some stairs.
That was before the tears.
The stairs led to a mezzanine made of steel beams covered by a steel grate that served as a floor surface.
Right. Above. The. Production. Line.
Let it sink in for a moment. We walked above the line where the onions were washed. Where the roots were sliced off. Where the stems were removed. The round veggies banged and battered each other as they collided all along the conveyor.
I couldn’t see a thing. It was a good thing my friend stayed near. It was as if I had been struck blind in seconds. The terror was nearly instantaneous. There is no other word to describe what I felt.
Shaking, I held onto his shoulder all the way across the mezzanine and back down the stairs.
Did you know the chemical in onions that makes you cry is the very same component that lends the edgy flavor which livens up so many dishes?
This seems a strange thing to write about on a day when we talk about love, doesn’t it?
Be my valentine.
Roses and chocolates.
Diamonds and gold.
Love is more than the fluff.
Not less. More.
Spicy and playful. Stinking and bitter.
To get through it, we have to stay close.
Standing on the mezzanine of life, we stay close to the ones we love.
And, they are there.
He promised that, too—the One who gave His lifeblood to show us the way.
I’ll be with you always. Even though the world around you disintegrates, I’ll be there. (Matthew 28:20)
He’s a Promise-keeper.
You’ll want to stay close. He won’t walk away.
Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.
(Carl Sandburg ~ American writer/poet ~ 1878-1967)
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ~ NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.