She walked through the finger-smudged glass door on a sunny day. A day strangely warm for February.
The air was gritty and the sun rusted-out by the relentless strength of the prairie wind lifting the broken land skyward.
She paused for a moment on the threshold, absently gazing forward as her eyes adjusted to the new light.
Her skin was fair. Her hair was wildflower-honey colored . . . falling below her shoulders in ripples like waves on a summer lake.
She was slender. Dressed in kickback casual, yet, styled to be her.
It was her eyes that captivated me, though.
She wore no makeup. She was perfectly gorgeous in her raw skin. She seemed completely comfortable with the purple spoons beneath her eyes.
They gave her a Pre-Raphaelite, waif-look that mesmerized and melted me in one glance.
I saw a piece of myself in her, but, I didn’t know which one until she sat down next to me.
I was drying from a pedicure; she was preparing for a set of nail to adhere and be embellished.
A moment of silence passed.
Two women assessing their instincts of trust.
We somehow concluded, simultaneously, to begin talking. Not just chatter, but, depth of speak.
She told me her life story – all 30+ years in an hour.
I told only snippets from a life lived much longer.
She was born and raised in the wasteland of a fading Route 66 town, a town that has become a hub of crack cocaine.
She avoided drug addiction. She married after high school – pregnant as she walked down the aisle.
She stayed with him for ten years; bore two children; divorced; lived 4 years single in that desolate town. Then, escaped one night to Missouri. A year there and she was chased back to New Mexico by a failed job and a homesick son.
She returned to realize that she’d fallen in love with her best friend. A cop in the crack town. A truant officer at her high school.
It was a small-town tale, but, I was continually drawn back to the noir beneath her eyes.
She spoke from such a deep well of wisdom.
I wanted to be her.
I wanted to re-live my life in smaller steps. In a smaller space. Simpler. More direct. All-the-while, gaining sage wisdom.
I wanted to invest in her economy of movement.
I saw myself eschewing academia; not exploring the world; nor meandering along the Champs-Elysees while she was nursing an infant.
I began to see more of why I’m seduced by tiny, parched towns and their ghostly people. Why I feel like a stranger on my own home turf – that strange land of the metropolitan East Coast.
She unknowingly gave me another clue to my personal puzzle.
Somewhere deep in the velvet of those vague, noir eyes, she held secrets and answers to my mysteries.
Somewhere in those eyes, at times, so tender I hurt to look into them. They drew blood in a way that’s curative.
I projected myself into her mind. And, perhaps, had I the skill of Rossetti, I’d paint her eyes from every fractured angle in the galaxy and expose the guilelessness of her atomic truth.
But I have only words as raw material.
And they are so damn ephemeral. I need a solid mooring. Brushes and oils and stretched canvas to capture this picture. To hold it still for contemplation – this too brief meeting of companionable souls. This momentary paralleling of two beings wanting to exchange lanes.
In my fantasy, we’ll reach the same destination of grown-up Truth.
Her path: right-lane Interstate.
My path: crooked rural roads.
Destiny fulfilled. But, for a fleeting hour, it was scintillating to imagine trading paths with a stranger.