How soon we pass

My cracked fingers are dirty and splochy with all sorts of marks on them from various types of markers. As I’m writing this on the bus, I can only find a red chisel-tip Sharpie and a handful of orange notecards.

At an intersection, a man walks adjacent to the bus wearing an aqua-green plastic robe. It looks a bit like a garbage bag. Or a cheap Halloween costume. On his head lies the pastel foam crown of Lady Liberty. He is advertising criminally high-rate fast loans to the poor from a walking billboard that promises freedom.

We pass the Faith in God Nails and Hair Salon. I doubt at this moment that I’ll get home in time to hold my daughter. She did not nap this afternoon. Which means that she was screaming all afternoon. Which means that she is going down early. Which means that she’ll be home before my half-hour ride gets me within vicinity of her squeamishly happy hug.

On Friday I picked her up from my wife’s job. My wife’s boss was sad to see her leave so soon.

My wife’s boss is great. Jen and the baby get to come into a downtown women’s empowerment firm’s office three times a week for several hours. And the baby is adored there.

Jen needed some extra time to finish some projects. I was the delivery man, bringing baby on a sling, only in style.

She wore a faux-fur coat like she was born to wear it. Her deep blue eyes and edible cheeks would only guarantee that she had to be something out of a television commercial for baby angels who don’t murder furry animals for clothing.

We bounded through the State of Illinois Center. The little one is drawn to windows like a moth to the flames (the difference being that she is not burned to a crisp by windows) and stretched her little neck back. And arched her little head back all the way until she was dizzy. I waited for her to get a grasp on what she was viewing. She is amazed. I am amazed at her amazement.

She is looking at the passengers as they pass by our perch on the bench in the subway. Busy people leaving their busy offices. Still buzzing from the joy-kill that was a week spent in an office, haggling with people every work-day for five days straight about things that they do not care about, and neither do the people they are doing business with.

And they notice the little girl with the big blue eyes gazing at them. And just as they pass, for an instant and just for an instant, they smile back. A warm, inviting smile. A smile that seems to transport them to another time, another place, another season, another mood. They are in the woods. They are walking their child. They are kissing their lovers. They are breathing deep. Their hair is being run through by the wind, or by a loved one’s fingers. Their steps are lighter. They have the ability to say anything. They have the power to say nothing. They are gorgeous and bright and the world is happy.

And as Joss arches her back and her neck and lifts up her legs to continue her glancing at them while they pass, they move on. They correct themselves. They are grown-ups, living in a grown-up world.


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