Thursday, August 14, 2008
The shadow of the Arch
Once upon a time, a little girl made a long journey to the big city. It was her very first trip to a big city. Staying at the duplex her aunt and uncle rented in a suburb, she tried to obey her mother's warning.
Stay close. This is a big place, and you never know who's out there.
The little girl tried, but the temptation to explore this new world -- where folks came in a wonderous variety of colors and everyone spoke English but talked funny -- overwhelmed her. She ventured just outside her aunt and uncle's yard toward the front of the duplex, where a young woman sat on the front porch smoking a cigarette and drinking something in a red plastic cup that reminded the little girl of the drinks served at Pizza Hut.
She greeted with woman with a friendly hello.
The woman, who barely looked as old as the little girl's 18-year-old big sister, offered a friendly greeting back and asked her who she was.
The child introduced herself and explained, "I'm visiting my aunt and uncle with my parents. Do you live here?"
"I do," she said as a man her age stepped onto the porch and sat next to her.
The little girl greeted him and asked if he lived there, too. He said yes but seemed more pensive than talkative to the girl.
"Are you married or boyfriend-girlfriend?" she asked with a sly smile.
The man and woman exchanged amused glances. It seemed as if they'd been asked this question before and didn't know how to respond.
"Neither," the woman answered.
Just then, the little girl's mother stepped around the corner of the house and scolded her for wandering out of the yard. After all, it's a big place and you don't know who's out there.
So, the child followed her mother back to the yard and to the house. The little girl allowed the chance meeting to dwindle in the back of her mind. During her long hours in elementary and junior high school, she wondered about that woman and her relationship with that man. She allowed herself to conjure fantastic stories about why they lived together but weren't an item.
By the time the little girl started high school, she began writing down ideas about those two strangers she met in the big, beautiful city. She even thought about the paths their lives took them on after that chance encounter. The woman recognized him as her dark knight. He recognized her as his muse. They fell madly in love, but they didn't live happily ever after.
The tale became tragic. One that must be told. One with a moral...
And that moral?
Don't let your children wander out of your sight in a big city because they might spend the next 28 years dreaming up absurd stories about the strangers they meet!
I have to admit, though, I am still curious about the woman and man with whom I had this conversation.