We want pumpkin muffins because we remember living in the place of crispy macintoshes and ribbed globes of deep orange, and because we miss the teasing bite of sweet spice. Mostly, it's because commercialized seasonal offerings make up all of the Autumn we now know.

This is the second time our Starbucked paths have crossed today, so I take notice. He's taking his muffin outdoors, letting it carefully balance on a perch of ceramic plate decorated with paper lace. Creamy ivory clangs once as he sets his dish on a table, followed by the distinct rattle of a bouncing fork. His other hand wraps around a throw-away plastic cup that's much better suited for outdoors. Later I'll realize that in positioning the plate, he has precisely calculated the length of his arm's reach. I will understand why his feet are so stiffly planted in front of him to create a perfectly shaped lap.

He's making last minute seating adjustments with a small bit of ceremony, and he begins to try out his snack.

I'm engaged in conversation but remain aware of the images on the periphery. It's windy, and rather than lift the entire muffin to trap a bite in his mouth, he insists on delicately partitioning it with his fork. I take note of this because he's dropping bites that bounce from his lap whenever a strong gust pushes through and the accidental bounty is attracting what look like finches. He tries to catch but misses two forkfuls, then fills the stainless steel with a third and new portion.


Because I move to a different table to escape some of the strongest breezes, my new seat allows a view of the still pink and deep damage that draws a wide scar around his jawbone. I take in the artificial aid tucked halfway behind his ear and then begin to actually see him even as I'm trying not to look. He takes another forkful and lifts it to a mouth and jaw that can't open wide enough. There's a small and dignified struggle, and a new bite of the pumpkin muffin he has spent his good time waiting for threatens to follow earlier bits and tumble with the next gust.

But he's insisting that he most certainly will harvest this bite of pumpkin and I'm happy to watch as he does just that.