the window in my kitchen, I like to look at the outline of the city.
I do this at least twice in a day; once when I am eating breakfast
and again in the evening when I have my supper. Looking at the city
like this from such a private place makes me feel so hopeful most
of the time. I see people moving individually, most of them are
really on their own, through their day. As I eat my meal, I wonder,
does that woman below with the red hat eat a meal like mine? Does
she prefer soup? Is she disagreeable? Will she look up to see me?
I was young and the prince of the ocean, my hair was made of sand
and honey. My
teeth were seashells and my eyes were like jellyfish from the deepest
part of the sea, glowing with their own secret light that would
pour out like that of faraway stars in the deep.
were the days when the water was so eager to rush up to my feet
to greet me, and even as it rolled away I could hear it calling
out to me that it would be back again in just a moment, just a moment.
could look out onto the water and see the sharp and thin line where
the air and the water met, I could tell a sailor how to find it
and what to do when he arrived there.
would skip on my toes along the coast and name every bird that swooped
by. I could walk out onto the water for miles, until it was a deep
dark blue under me, and whales eased past in song. I never sank
then. I had a friend under every stone. What glorious times those
think of them often from my window. I imagine that I can see the
water from where I live.
There is a woman. She lives nearby, I know it must be very close
to where I live because when I step outdoors in the evening to buy
a few things for my supper, I usually run into her. She is medium
height and has hair that is brown and soft. She wears it tied up
in the traditional way. Her eyes look tired always, but they are
still shining; it is not the colour that is so impressive to me,
but the look behind them. Her look is endlessly bright. She is not
glamorous the way a woman men look forward to seeing might be. She
is expecting a baby, I am quite certain of it. Her step is not quite
strained as it will be in a month or two, but there is a meditative
quiet look to her entire being that is unmistakable. For me, she
is so beautiful. I never considered a woman such as her, nor in
her condition before. Here, I cannot avoid it.
should like to take her to see my beach and my ocean the way I know
was happy as a prince, when I was small and light. I thought only
of what I saw around me, and what moments I knew that were not completely
happy were quickly remedied by something to eat or a nap or a wash
and bandage. There was a completeness to everything. I was more
alone then, in the wide expanse of the beach and water, with only
a few visitors now and then, but I was never lonely.
I was a boy, and boys are curious. I wandered away. I began again
in the city. Once, a man with a great long beard and tall furry
hat came on horseback, right onto the sand from the trees behind
me. He shared his chocolates and fruits with me, and I shared with
him a dream I had the night before. He held a small lead pencil
ready and I told it to him.
he urged me, with his strange way of speaking. "I want to make
sure I get it all.
is dark but lights are everywhere, some are flashing. There are
other people everywhere, colourful ones, and angry ones. Everything
is fast. There are many smells - delicious ones and bad ones. There
were things I had never seen or imagined before. I have been thinking
about it since I woke." The man had stopped writing. He pointed
into the trees.
on days when I do not need to go to the shops for my meal, I go
outside, and I pretend to be buying things. I have worked hard to
look like this is exactly what I mean to be doing, I even make a
list and am careful to consult it in the store. I include
weight, and brand in my list. For produce, I have even taken to
writing which countries the fruits and vegetables should come from.
"Pears from France, preferably Anjou", is a good one.
"Brazilian mango" is also nice. I want to ask for brussel
sprouts from Turkey, for the comedy of it, only I fear the way the
store clerk would look at me for being such an idiot. He seems to
be a very stern man, and I doubt he would appreciate the joke. He
is always shouting at the young students in their uniforms for taking
too long to select their candy and drinks.
see the woman I know turning a corner at a few minutes after 7 o'clock.
Her steps are strong, and she holds herself so elegantly. Sometimes
I imagine that she is a queen from long ago and she is carrying
a crown prince, there is that much dignity to her steps through
this rowdy part of the city. She walks as though she is entirely
unafraid of anyone around her.
have been days more recently when my heart ached so much from the
sight of her and her gentle walk that I feared for her safety. She
is always alone. I think of her going home to empty rooms and struggling
just a bit with what she is carrying. I can almost smell the simple
dinner she prepares for herself. How wonderful these thoughts are
to me. The idea of her dinner is often nourishment enough for me.
was yesterday that I followed her home for the first time. The terrible
fear of some wretched person hurting her, taking her money, pushing
her to the ground forced me to see her home safely. I followed from
far away, so that if she turned around, I could duck or blend in
with the other people weaving along the sidewalk.
lives in a building, older and smaller than mine, with more charm.
The bricks are a glamorous dark brown, and there are flower boxes
on each balcony. I wonder if she has inherited it from someone;
surely she cannot afford this place on her own. I saw her enter
the building, and waited until the lights came on in one of the
darkened apartments. Staring up from behind some bushes, I saw that
it was her.
has a cat. I saw it. The truth so far for me is that I do not like
cats. I can appreciate their beauty, and their soft fur. I simply
do not like having them around me. I know they watch me. I know
that they judge me as well. I have tried to keep them before, attempting
to cure this fault in my character. I fed them very well, with the
best salmon from a can, and cream from my own bottle. Though even
with this lavish treatment, I knew the cats were critical of me.
Their disapproval reeked from them.
her cat is not prejudiced to men like me. I do kind things all the
time. Perhaps cats have selective vision against my kindness.
decided yesterday to bring something for her, to leave at her door
after seeing where she lives. Not to frighten her, I have taken
every precaution not to frighten this lady. I am her secret escort.
I protect her from far away. There was extra change in my pocket
today, and something wrapped in newspaper. The change was to buy
a jar of double cream for the lady. Expectant mothers need milk,
they crave it, I have heard. It will be good for the growing bones
of her little child. Of course, this will be clear to her. This
is the very finest and most rich milk to be found. And so she will
find it at her door.
I came out of the store with the cream in a paper bag, a man asked
me for change. He sat on the sidewalk. He is always there.
I'm sorry," I said to him.
I'm starving. Just a little for a cup of coffee. Please." I
thought of the cream in the bag. The man was very dirty, and missing
most of his teeth. His cheeks were hollow. Dirt was ground into
his skin and collected wherever there was a fold in it or his clothing.
He had a booklet in his hand, folded open. There were many lines
of crammed, tiny writing. "Please. Whatever you can spare."
felt guilty for the cream, and began to reach into my pocket for
the change. I stared into the swarm of people and saw, at a distance,
my lady. She was disappearing. I looked at this hungry man on the
street, but this time saw him not as someone pitiable, but as a
person capable of acting desperately. I needed to be nearer to the
woman. I began to feel a slight panic.
I'm sorry," I said to him and stepped away. I heard him curse
at my back. The back of my heart felt awful for this man. I have
been hungry before as well. I was moving swiftly, very afraid that
something had happened to her already. This night is very cold.
There are not enough beds or dollars for everyone who needs food
caught the sight of her soft hair and coat, moving evenly with the
people around her. She was safe! I continued behind her, allowing
some more space between us now that I knew where she was. I felt
very excited, and very nervous.
entered her building, and I kept away. I looked up to where she
lived, but I saw that a light was already on. My heart froze. Someone
moved quickly to the doors and waited for a man to enter. He cast
me a strange glance, which at any other time would have sent me
turning on my heel. I took the two flights of stairs to her floor
three at a time. Peering down the hallway, I saw her just stepping
inside her door, pulling the key from its lock.
her muffled voice called out. I ran down the hallway, I was going
to be too late! I heard her voice continue though, not in any terrified
tone, but gently, and informally. I slowed, creeping now, and heard
a man's low voice reply to her before the door closed.
was not alone. She was already safe. This was what I had wanted,
her well-being and happiness. I felt my knight's armor rust and
crumble away, knowing she had a companion. Still, I moved towards
her door, using my lightest step. I heard some music from behind
her door. There was laughter, and I felt a little glad for her laughing.
placed the cream in front of her door. Beside it I placed the package
from my pocket. Inside it was a tiny starfish, from my ocean. I
would have liked to see her open it. I suppose I do not need to
though. I can imagine the scene, how happy it will make her. I think
of her finding a good spot for it.
will make my shopping list again tomorrow. "Ricotta cheese,
500g, from Tuscany," or something like this. There is a place
for me, when I see her each day, where I am important. It is everything
to me. I keep her safe, though she does not know it. I look forward
to the evening when I am a prince once more.