Thursday, June 2, 2011
flesh and blood
i can still hear her after all these years. hers was not a loud or a commanding voice, or even a charismatic one, and yet it had the power to move us, push us, inspire us to challenge ourselves toward greater achievements. for some strange reason i think she affected me most of all. why else would i even be thinking about her now after so much time has passed?
her creative writing course was tough. she was tough. all her students complained about the workload.
except me. i secretly loved the assignments she heaped on us. her encouragement in the area of expanding and stretching our abilities to a higher level was invaluable and helped me at a critical time in my life, saved me later on i think.
in class she used to give us assignments to warm up our brains, writer's muscle workouts in the form of prompts. for example: write about what you see outside the window.
and we're off. pens and pencils scratch on notebook paper. just beyond the large ground floor windows i see grass, a tree, a bench.....
a lush green sweep of expertly maintained lawn intersected by wide pathways. i look off to the right of the highly fertilized and manicured golf course-like expanse where a mature weeping willow tree claims a portion of my view. a little brown dog sniffs around the base of the tree. students wearing shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops and backpacks move steadily back and forth along the paths, sometimes sluggishly, sometimes briskly, on their way to and from classrooms, labs, studios, coffee shops.
a woman sits facing me at one end of a long, hand-made cedar garden bench. she is attractive, well-built, in her early fifties, and dressed in slim black capri pants, pale blue top, black sandals, large silver hoop earrings. her hair is striking—long, loose, flowing, silver-gray. healthy hair. i can't help staring at her hair. i forget to keep writing.
where have i seen her before?
my pen moves again. i look beyond the glass. i know this woman. i have known her for years, haven't i? i watch her, fascinated. she unzips the top of her leather bag and reaches inside. she is searching for something....what? some lipstick? an apple? a notebook? a cigarette? she fans the air in front of her to shoo away an interruption—a bee, a mosquito, a gnat—her hand sideways, regal, like a queen waving to her subjects.
the woman stands, stretches, and one, two, three, puts her hair up in a ponytail. something glints in the sun. a ring.
i stare at the piece of paper on the desk, my left hand pressed down hard and sweaty on the edge of it, the words tangles of black ink.
when i graduated from college my parents gave me a wonderful gift: a ring, heavy, wide and beautifully wrought in sterling silver by a well-known artist, featuring two identical dolphins facing one another, their eyes tiny sapphires. a unique, exquisite piece. my parents are gone now; my sister, too. but i still have the ring. it hardly ever leaves my finger. i feel its good weight; this token, a lasting bond with the past, a reminder of my only close flesh and blood family.
on the bench the woman is writing in a notebook. her ring flashes. is she a writer? is that how i know her?
i take notice of familiar little things. how she tilts her head, how she puts her index finger up to her lips and bites her nail, nibbles her skin, a nervous habit.
in my mind it is the most beautiful day. the sun. the sun. i can see it now.
we have met. i know where.
i look at my hand, the blood vessels tiny and blue and winding below the surface of my skin, the nails on my fingers bitten. i look beyond the glass. out there the metal shines in the sun for all the world to see. but maybe only i see. it is blinding, but i can see.
it's been so long. i miss her. on her finger is the dolphin ring. it is identical to mine.