She was crossing the tiny green park at the end of the block when her silhouetted movement caught my attention. The little triangular park with the cluster of pink rose bushes in full rambling bloom. And the old chestnut tree at its center that provides safe haven in its dense leaves for the chirping brown sparrows. The June evening light was angled and orange, promising hope for tomorrow's dreams.
I was on my apartment balcony, sipping lemonade and scrutinizing any action on the street below that came within sight of lethargic old eyes.
She was young, barely fourteen I supposed, trying to stay aloft on those Cuban heels while treading the thick summer lawn, possibly her first pair of raised-heel shoes. She paused to twist off a florid bloom. She reminded me of someone I knew once.
The girl joined the sidewalk and strolled in my direction, pausing before every store window to peer in. The shops had closed hours ago. I realized there was nothing of interest in a hardware store for one so young and that she was looking at her own reflection. She clutched the pink rose behind her back.
She was wearing a soft blue top, a thin material form fitted to her lithe, adolescent body, the front being low cut with a lacy edge which revealed the budding potential of breasts promising to bloom later, perhaps in time for the new school term in September. Nevertheless she was proud of them already, watching herself at various angles as she passed the New and Used, the produce shop and the barbers. Lingered again before the little bakery, tugged at her top, pulling it down to expose more of the porcelain skin on an untrammeled chest. Her jeans were wide bottomed, old, faded, blue, yet the long legs wore them well. Someday she would be tall. The shoes were either a beige suede or scuffed leather, I couldn't see them well enough to know for sure. Her attire was dissimilar, as though they were all hand-me-downs, yet the narcissistic young maid seemed to carry a style that was not restrained by mere clothing. She might someday grow into a unique and alluring personality. Where one's interest was lured magnetically to the inner person. Another glint of ancient memory flashed like a crack of light beneath a door.
She spied something across the street and veered, now walking quickly toward the new cappuccino bar with her arms behind her, hands clasped at her waist, twirling the rose absently, displaying the fresh bumps she was so enamored of. Her dark hair swept back from her head into a pony tail accented a bone structure already losing the child's face and forming the somewhat regal countenance of that woman of tomorrow. What romantic adventures were detained in that dreamy girl-mind? She was too young to have ambitious plans. Or was she?
I lost sight of her for a few moments, content to sip my bittersweet drink and languish in the wanderings of approaching evening and slipping age. Contemplating youth and how it progresses with such fraudulent stealth into a lifetime, even on a quiet street with little movement.
Yes. There it is, appearing as a watercolor memory even though I try not to paint that picture too often. At fifteen myself, I had been enamored of such an enchanting girl-woman. Sexual interest at first. Of course. But after a glimpse of her inner character my carnal pomposity was deflated and became the admiration of something known to be better. That girl had already been above the advancings of a puerile teenaged boy. And when she allowed some of that maturity to escape, which defied her youthful package, it deflected my juvenile behavior. We became lifelong companions. Lifelong. This meandering miss brimmed with a similar quality.
She might someday, if she survived her precarious second decade, have a choice. Of international men with money and power. Yes, and lovers and toys too when she arrived. And arrive she would. I already knew this person from that hidden alcove in time. She may also find a love that transcends the materiality of life and leads her through placid decades without mishap or ill fortune. Some are lucky that way. Some are unlucky that way.
Suddenly the girl was striding back to the opposite side of the street again, crossing my line of sight, swinging her arms with boldness, perhaps having got the reluctant approval of older males in the cafe. The rose was now tucked into her belt with elegance, as though it was a trendy, vogue, New York thing to do. Her walk was confidant, adult. I could see her face better now. No garish dash of lipstick, only a touch of pink, as though she had brushed the rose to her lips for its color. No artificially shaded cheeks. Only a demure blush that spoke of innocence. She had no need of altering her appearance. Those naturally dark eyes met mine an instant, but it was as though my presence was like a bird on a branch, I had so little effect.
I was beginning my fade into obscurity and one day I would surely cease to exist. Like that other enduring Rose in my trampled recollection of time. People would look at the flowers on this balcony and see no gray eyes looking back at them. Wouldn't smile at my raised toast of lemonade. Wouldn't know if a rose had ever graced my life with fragrance, delicacy, beauty and love.
Who is the more anguished? The traveler leaving on the train? Or the one who remains behind on the platform?
The Rose went past the consignment store without even glancing this time into the murky window. But as she reached the Shoe Repair, with its little wooden sign hanging from a chain just above head level, she skipped upward like a small child and batted it with a slim hand. While it swung and squeaked on the rusty chain she continued on her capricious route to womanhood.
I resolved to plant a pink rose here for next year.
© RC Westerholm