Mini-Post Office at the gas station market: The postal worker waits on en elderly couple. The gentleman has snowy white hair and waits patiently beside his wife who has slender but shapely calves that possibly speak of an adventurous life climbing mountains or leading tour groups through cobblestoned streets of Europe, but she now uses an aluminum cane to move from one place to the next, or even just to stand still. Waiting behind them in line: A chic and well-appointed Cambodian woman with two young children. Her Italian leather handbag matches precisely the mango yellow shade of her blouse. Her daughter, perhaps five years old, is well-behaved and looks longingly for approval with her shiny round chestnut eyes. Her little brother, standing all of two and a half feet tall, has somehow managed to un-pot the fake palm tree standing in the corner of the postal area. Mother juggles her two large boxes to be shipped in one arm while trying to re-pot the fake tree with her other hand. Next, la caurentona dressed in black like una viuda, listening to the soundtrack of her life on an iPod as if she were less than half her age, like one of her own daughters, isolating herself via ear buds but taking it all in through her eyes and her smile. (That would be me.) Behind the viuda, an Eastern European immigrant, perhaps Russian, perhaps Croatian, Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Hungarian, Czech – the observer is not at all versed in Eastern European languages and so there is no real way of knowing unless she were to ask, but she will not ask. She will merely enjoy the sound of the woman’s foreign words as she speaks to her young son who could be the same age as the little Cambodian girl. (The observer, still isolated via iPod, delights in this moment of diversity in our little corner of Beaverton.) The children do not speak one another’s language, but share the common bond of childhood curiosity. They are drawn to each other like magnets, looking at each others’ toys and books that their mothers have wisely allowed them to carry along (because one always has to wait at the post office), but even more drawn to one another’s face, to see the expression there, to ask the question and receive the answer: Will you be my friend?
Beyond the post office, the viuda carries on her rainy summer day adventure, walking just to walk because the air feels so good after three days of stifling heat. She loves the way the iPod shuffles her songs, always coming up with the most clever juxtapositions of musical genres: Django Rhinehart with Stephane Grappelli next to Cake next to Paolo Conte next to Santana with Rob Thomas next to Fiona Apple next to FatBoySlim next to Sabrá Dios next to Leslie Gore next to… The music and the motion of walking energize her. She feels like a combination of Amelie and Ava Gardner and California flip flop girl. She walks to Trader Joe’s not because she needs anything, but just because she wants to keep walking. She buys her good dark chocolate, ginger snaps on a whim, and Tex Mex veggie burgers because even though they might bother her stomach they are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO tasty! She keeps walking. She sees herself walking past the Trevi Fountain in Rome, beside the steps of the Sacré Coeur de Paris, cheeks glowing magenta beneath her fuchsia umbrella, but in fact she is not the diva of some Fellini film, she is merely la cuarentona walking towards the strip mall. She will go into the bookstore, Barnes and Noble, ever so nobly, for the books, for the journey (and for the restroom).
Art books. Books about photography and journeys and lives she would like to lead. Books about color, colorful houses, they should put my house in a book because it’s so colorful. Where am? Am I lost, have they changed the shelves? I thought I knew where things were. Here they are, arts and crafts. These art dolls look like my old Muse Cat dolls. I wonder if the author saw them or has one, was she in any way influenced by me in my past life? I should make art dolls again, maybe I’ll go home and start sewing. Build your own shrines… You could use foam board, it’s simple, I could do this, I’d make a shrine to Grammie, a shrine to J, maybe a shrine to heal. Look at all these well-known artists who make shrines, and the materials they use, and why can’t I focus on just one thing at a time and get really good at it? She leaves the bookstore, letting her eye catch this book and that calligraphy pen, and this possibility and that fantasy…
The rain makes everything clear and calm again. There is nothing but the umbrella and the click clack of her flip flops as she walks along the concrete, across the parking lot, between the flower stands, around the corner, waiting for the light to change, the music shaping the rhythm of her steps, across the damp green grass, up the lane, and into the courtyard where her wild jungle of dahlias, roses, yellowing spears and straggling strawberries topple over each other to greet her, stems and leaves and ferns slapping her calves and thighs as she walks by. Just before unlocking the front door, she catches her reflection in the window and sees that she is not nearly as beautiful as she thought she was, but she finds the shimmer beneath the surface, hidden from the reflection: this moment of presence in the awareness of happiness.
A veces verdaderamente me gustaría que pudieras estar aquí dentro de mi cabeza para ver que no soy una tabula rasa, que estoy llena de pensamientos e ideas, interesantes o no interesantes pero interesantes en su anchura y su profundidad, o si no sean profundas, a lo mejor toman un rumbo interesante… Luego, entonces - tal vez - me pudieras amar.