Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

He saw her standing there, no longer young, but the two ends of an untied ribbon dangled down the back of her unkempt hair nonetheless. It was a pink satin ribbon, the kind he remembered his daughters would carefully sew to their new ballet slippers because the shoes came with the ribbons unattached, and once attached, they’d wrap them in crisscross fashion around their dainty ankles and the ribbons thus fastened were lovely to see as his girls did leaps and turns across the dance floor. This image shot through his mind now, as he passed the corner of 2nd and Broadway where the woman stood, almost motionless, looking blankly out into the street. Her features were Hispanic or Native American (he didn’t like that term much, but for lack of a better one, that was how she looked), and she wore a light-colored high-waisted frilly sort of dress that he assumed was meant to match the pink ribbon in her hair and make her look like a young girl. He supposed she was trying to appeal to the hidden Humbert Humbert in some men, a ploy that didn’t work for him. He was headed home, though, and the thought of seeing and doing the same old same—taking his evening regimen of pills, testing his blood sugar, readying the oxygen equipment and all his other personal machinery of medicine for the night—made him circle the street to get a closer look. When he passed this time, her dark eyes flicked his way for a moment, seeming wary and hopeful at the same time. When he stopped, the wariness gave way to hope entirely and she rushed over to his car and bent down so that her ample face filled the window frame. She moved her mouth to say something, then stopped, not sure, he guessed, which language to use. She tried to smile instead, but immediately became self-conscious because she was missing a front tooth, and quickly closed her mouth. Laughing, she put a small plump hand over her lower face to hide what she thought was too hideous for the occasion. Again, she was trying to be girlish, appeal to some supposed need in men. And this time it worked on him. He rolled down the window and said, “Want a ride?” She looked right, then left, as if unsure, as if checking for permission, as if weighing the odds, then opened the door and slid in. Again, she laughed, a short giggle of a laugh, as if to say, “Well, here I am.” She smelled of old things, old unwashed clothes, old shoes, old sweat but there was also an underlying perfume smell that, though old as well, reminded him of something he couldn’t quite place and wasn’t unpleasant at all. For a few long moments they sat in the car, while she laughed and covered her mouth now with both hands. On this particular night, he thought he would have wanted something or someone different, but he gave into the urge to reach over and touch the ribbon in her hair and was grateful that she didn’t flinch. In fact, she let him hold it between his fingers for a time to feel its silkiness. When he finally let it drop, she herself reached back and tied it into a bow so he could have its full effect. Then she smiled again, baring her teeth without shame, and she succeeded in making him smile, too. The yellow, then red, then green, then yellow again glow of the traffic lights gave her apple cheeks a delicate sheen. Now it was he who looked right and then left, unsure and weighing the odds, even asking for permission.  Finally, he said, in what little Spanish he knew, “Vamanos,” and eased the car into the light traffic.

 

Advertisements