Growing Up, People Watching

Ready or Not

The net is tight across her middle. You can’t say belly. She has none. Copper helmet, slick to the scalp. Eyes rimmed in kohl shift to window glass, black flashing with staccato light. Does she want to go back?
Do I?
Into the cavern. A wheezing pause stories below light. The smell of popcorn steps in first. Hiding under its cloak, something else creeps aboard. Like sugar on the rancid spill. A not-right presence. No one looks straight at anyone else.
Everything is hidden here, even the sock puppets we pull out and put on in plain view. My hands speak! Listen, look! Yet another voice narrates the scene. Back there, under the chatter, another telling. The strings are never invisible, not completely. We are not alone. The sense of what can’t quite be seen lifts the hairs at the back of the neck.
Is there a chill in here?
Bike grease streaked in the shape of a chain splits the canvas of her calf. It was not an accident. No one would question it there. Anyway, he fumed out an apology. He called himself a jerk. He called her worse. The thread dripping from her ears should be filigree. Should be wisteria. Should be a path back to the hanging gardens of Babylon.
It is only a pipe for mainlining her tin of music. Whatever sound floods out thought, it lacks beat enough to tap hers. She looks all around. Darting. She looks at her hands. Folding. Is it daylight still out there? Who can tell?
One day, she will be his child again. It will be the first time she rides the train alone again. The bright beginning, the first step over the gap. She will be someone’s future. Like all of us, she was fetal once.
In her plastic seat, she sits erect but folds herself just enough to appear reluctant to be born.

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