It is my job to sit and to watch. And from this place. I see. Now, as many creatures as God has put on this earth, it’s still a wonder that the common places of humanity are so...manied. The way the sun alights the eye in love, or how that same love dances on the lips of its receiver. Or the shuffle of a hurried hip swaying perilously above a foot desperate to dodge time. The set of a shoulder in need. The curve of an imperious neck uncaring of the scandalous words of another. And perhaps that is why she vexed me. Seeing her for the first time vexed me so my back stiffened at the sight of her, my own neck turning - eyelids lowered. Watching. Knowing. I knew her.
Her gait was at once haughty and labored, both seeming to fight the other for a spotlight. Her own eyes darted here….there behind ever blinking eyes, too, watching...wanting...waiting. The sway of her hips held imaginings of royalty but her butterfly hands called their bluff. I knew her.
Whispers of her own yesterday painted shadows over her present, and now was no different. I didn’t know her know her. But her given name, carried after being found one hot hot morning, barely breathing beneath a pile newspapers as high as my knees, held legend and truth-marred fiction. She was an ever rising walking scar that begged to be ignored and dared to be unseen. A reminder that time cannot be held, that fortune could just be a trick.
Years of compounded and unaddressed loss had squeezed the gift of today to the darkened rivers of her mind, and what was left seemed to be ever changing. She was talking... talking…her mouth bitter, her words reaching like a March wind. And she was moving...moving...her fingers and limbs dancing to a tune of their own beneath layers of clothing that left behind the scent of a dried rose crushed beneath bare feet.
I always kept my mouth and wallet closed around those like her, choosing instead to keep myself whole(ly) inside the myth of my own reality. Yes, I know of it’s lore but it is my safety whether I am locked in or out. But the waiting that pooled within her eyes stilled me and let my soul-side loose in recognition. I have known her waiting of spaces that spiral around time,
of memories ungrasp-able
of the race from expectant expectancy
that leaves an emptiness unfillable
but does not burn away...
and did not want to be reminded. And on this day, her flutter battered my stronghold. On this day, the strut brought me to a precipice, the swagger, a glance, her chin-tilt daring me to not watch her, and know her and wait with her as her butterfly hands reached for the generosity of passersby.
And...before I could stop myself I followed her. A quiet chase down patches of sidewalk, listening. Watching the profile of her now muted lips move in haphazard syncopation with her agitated fingers. A silent waltz -- that stopped with the sudden echo of my footsteps.
She turned. And the need that faced me mirrored my own. But instead, my own hands orchestrated the overplayed symphony of tinkling change as copper pennies slipped through the spaces between my fingers and hard bounced on concrete. An unintentional mocking that my pride refused to make right. She coughed, unbending...lips still moving...eyes locked and wrestling mine and because I could, I grabbed her. Hoping my own grasping would blind her to the familiarity in my eyes and cause me to forget the penny juju I used to ward off my own poverty.
And the touch was eternity. I thought she melted, or molted, but it was me. And I wanted to let go, but the whisper of her lips held me. And when I remembered to breathe, I asked her to stop, please. Stop moving your lips I said. I demanded. Threatened because, I could. And because I wanted to know more of her, I baited her with claims of public nuisance, reeled her in with wrongful conduct and insisted she stand still. I restrained her. Because I could. Because getting her out of my sight might flatten the memories she threatened to breath life into. And before I led her away, she said:
I talk to remember. I have nothing but that. I say my name so I remember that I have one. I chant the names of my father and mother because they are with me. I whisper my song because it cannot be unsung.
Her words closed my eyes, but I saw her. I asked for a name. She touched my name plate and read it aloud then looked away, her rose scent causing my knees to bend just so and my grasp to slacken. And I let her go, let her sashay herself back to her next cardboard home. But I. I am forever bewitched. Forever changed. And I say a prayer for her whenever I see the cracked residue of red roses or the haughty lift of a chin. I wait on the eye behind the outstretched hand, pausing for the recognition inside moments of wanting And sometimes, I catch my own lips moving in remembrance of my father and mother. And all the time, I whisper my song, ever astonished that it is hers too.