by Ben Crisp and Rosalinda Flores
It must be nice, I thought, to have some sort of certainty in life.
To be able to look to a faith to guide you when reality – that deluge of chaos that tears at the flesh and soul – is inescapable. Or maybe she just liked the statue.
More people began to trickle into the park. The illusion that this was my place began to fade, like it always did, as the sun drew long shadows on the ground; soon it would be time for work. Once I had enjoyed the anonymity of living in a big foreign city. Now, I feared, solitude was decaying into loneliness and I felt myself disappearing into the crowds that lined the streets each day.
She finished or paused whatever thoughts had held her and stood up to leave, as though in a sudden hurry.
Was this my life? Watching others from outside a window like a child at a pet store?
It took a moment for me to notice the sliver of yellow beneath the bench. Curious, I stood and walked slowly across the park to the space in the front of the statue. The impassive Madonna did not turn to look at me as I entered her periphery, and when I stooped to inspect I saw it was a silk summer scarf that had fallen from the bench; that same canary hue of the woman’s dress.
She was already at the end of the park, turning left out of the gates without looking back. The scarf in one hand, my other reached into its pocket to retrieve my phone.
come dwn sick. mybe flu. srry. tlk 2morrow.
I had taken three sick days in four years. Whatever else that devotion to such a badly paying job might be called, I reasoned, it wasn’t the symptom of a well man.
I quickened my pace not quite to a jog and scanned the streets when I reached the gates. For a moment I thought I had lost her until I spied a flash of yellow amidst a crowd of pedestrians moving across an intersection two blocks down. The traffic closed after them like parted waters and I waited, tense.
Overloaded trucks and bikes whined past at high speed in the dangerous dance of weaving engines that only the Filipinos can survive. A group of wiry children aligned at the curb next to me, chattering like squirrels, watching the road with unblinking eyes and gesturing to each other with their hands. They were preparing to cross. I watched them watching the cars, and when they darted out I sucked in a breath and ran with them.
Horns blared all around me, and I felt the thundering slabs of steel rush by close enough to feel the heat from their choking and spluttering motors, but after a few terrifying moments we were across safely – the children giggling and pointing at the idiotic white man.
The woman had vanished from sight, and I spent a few moments striding between street corners, standing on the tips of my toes as I scanned the faceless crowds for her. Then the yellow dress peeked out through gaps in the crowd ahead of me, and I moved again in her direction, pushing my way past the suits and the sneakers and the cell phones and sunglasses.
I followed her to a street lined with townhouses – the angular, rendered townhouses for people with the money to pay others to choose their tastes for them. I had gained enough ground now to call out to her from the other side of the street, but I caught myself when she stopped in front of a high stone wall to push the button on an intercom panel.
She spoke for only a moment and waited for a response, then the courtyard door must have been unlatched from within because she pushed it open quickly and stepped inside.
I was alone, on that lush and empty street, the scarf still wrapped in my hands.