He Dreams of Falling
At the table in patio seating, a young man starched into my evening in waiter black and white-- he's probably named John, Tom, something less spectacular than the busboy named Ari at the table beside me. He is a boy I've seen and I hide that from him, a silence he doesn't understand as he turns away not remembering that a week ago while waiting for a bus I saw him step over the legs of an old homeless woman sprawled on the sidewalk. His foot not clearing her arm, caught, so that he jerked her body while a consciousness almost found her but didn't, just stirred somewhere below her face. In the spiral where he turned he glanced not at the woman but to see who'd seen. He saw me watching him, jack-lighted and drawn into the warm ceremony that fell through him. I understood this explosion, the burn from the beginning, there when a bus passes, or a waiter quietly puts down your check. He could be my brother, have parents at home in Ohio where there is a small lie buried in a garden with snow peas and basil. There may be another breaking the soil, dogs who bark into the woods, constellations who see our freeways as spines-- or he may miss a warm climate, groves of oranges measuring the circular scent of weight each time a heavy fruit falls. He may know that secretly the hearts of children conspire to stop when parents close their bedroom doors. But in this construction, the pace that takes him back and forth in the servitude of strangers, he has forgotten, again, to feel for me, eating alone, a woman familiar deep in the eyes, with his same knowledge of movement that bends us forward, the instinct of our heels ready to turn against that jerk a body makes even in dead sleep, the stir that is less than we ask for, less than an old woman, or a woman growing old.
From When the Moon Knows You're Wandering by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Copyright © 2002 by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press. All rights reserved.