As I continue to put the final touches on the restructuring of my book, I thought I would share the new beginning…to tease you all with the story. I would love to hear your thoughts, but as always, I am grateful just for your readership.
Inside the River
How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Part 1: Emma
“Miss, can you help me across the street?” The old man was neatly dressed in clothes tailored to his tall, thin body. He wore a chocolate brown blazer, tan slacks and a matching tan scarf around his neck. The brightness of his blue eyes were startling.
“Sure,” I replied. I had just dropped, my daughter, Sabrina, off at her pre-school on the Upper East Side and was standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change on a cool Autumn Manhattan morning.
“No, my name is Emma,” I said as the light changed.
He placed my arm above his and walked me across the street. It was a kind gesture, a throw back from a time before mine. “No, I mean you remind me of Ana,” he explained as we crossed the intersection. “I am Antonio.” He placed his free hand on his chest.
“It’s nice to meet you. Who is Ana?” We were at the other side, but for some reason I didn’t want to unhook myself from this nice, old man.
“She is the story my father recited to me over the years. I grew up hearing about Ana and I’d always imagined what she would look like in person. I have never met anyone who resembled her until today. Well, that is a slight misstep of the truth, but I cannot give you what I have already returned and you have not yet received.”
“I don’t understand,” I replied.
“Would you like to hear about Ana?”
Perhaps I should’ve said good-bye and walked away. It would’ve been easy to make an excuse, simply claim I’d somewhere to go, to extricate myself from this stranger and his piercing blue eyes, but then I blurted out, “I’d love to hear the story.” What was I doing?
“Let’s sit inside and have something hot to drink,” he suggested as we were now standing in front of a cafe.
Once inside, I got us two coffees and went to sit down beside him. He stood up and then we sat down together. I was still uncertain what I was doing with this stranger, but I had hours before it would be time to get Sabrina from her pre-school and was in no rush to return to my empty apartment. Also, the old man seemed to offer a safe diversion from my dismal thoughts of my husband, Alex.
“I feel like I wear all the years of my life as layers of skin.” He began speaking softly. “I am eighty, but I’ve been carrying my youth for many more years than my aged ones and so I am sometimes shocked when I look in the mirror. How can I be so old and yet still smell my father’s kiss as he leaned toward me to say goodnight when I was young and crying about my eyes?”
“Your eyes?” I asked. His piercing blue eyes, like the brightness of a blue sky on a clear day, made me forget that the rest of his face was deeply lined. His cheeks drooped in surrender to his years, but his eyes were alert and bright. It was as if they were lit from somewhere else.
“Yes, the blue scared people. They called me a demon.”
I gasped and covered my mouth with my hand.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I haven’t heard that word in quite a while,” I whispered. My mother’s words echoed loudly in my head.