Everything had changed. The intensity of my brief knowledge of efervescent joy left me dull and listless, kneeling on cold, grey pavement, hands on my knees, open and facing upward, head down. The sound of traffic around me dulled beneath the sound of my thudding heart, a billowing frame of ebony clouds cushioning my sight as I stared at a single crack in the sidewalk, from which a faded, yellow sunflower stretched, it’s petals wilted, the mahogany and russet center dusted with the detritus of multitudes.
As I watched it, it seemed to lift a bit with the easing of my heartbeat, just a bit. The pale green of its stem charred by tar and the ozone of passing cars. The miracle of its existence was not lost on me as I ignored the ceaseless movement, the high heels and dockers, burnished, black business shoes and tennis shoes moving around me, the step of some a bit irritated at having to navigate what must seemed to have been, to them, some transient, kneeling in the middle of the sidewalk staring at a flower.
“Are you ok, Sir?”
The flower seemed to nod at me, nudging me, as if saying, “Now see? I told you it wasn’t so bad. Somebody cares about you.” Through his silent chuckles I heard the question, again, seeming to come from a long distance away.
“Are you ok, Sir?”
I looked up slowly as the impression seemed to reach some core of consciousness somewhere deep beneat the surface of my mind, for surely no thought had welled up from those stygian depths for some time, now. Surely not. The voice itself, if I may judge such things, was sweet; young and innocent, of course. The little girl it belong to, coffee and cream, wide, big eyes staring at me from beneath her purple hoodie, the oversized school bag on her back filled with what I was sure were the most precious things in her life.
“Do you need some help, Sir? My mama gave me a cell phone for emergencies. Do you need some help?”
She seemed closer now, somehow. The ebon fog of scintillating darkness framing my vision seemed to fade a bit as the colors of the urban landscape cleared. The sounds of the streetscene seemed louder too, as if God had turned up the volume on everything around me. I looked around as if seeing the scene for the first time. People, cars, distant music and the honking of horns. Muffled and clear voices and the ambient hum of bustling city life filled my ears, drowning out my impressions of the little girl as I was bombarded by life.
She poked me on the shoulder. “Say, are you crazy or something,” said, looking at me suspiciously, one eyebrow cocked, “my mama told me not to talk to no crazy people.”
I surprised myself with laughter, a low, raspy sound broken from the hollow of my throat. Curious, I spoke, just to see what it sounded like. “Naw, lil girl, I ain’t crazy. Just lost. You see, I thought I had it all, when I actually had nothing. Nothing at all.”
Her face lit up in understanding. “Oh, yeah, I know all about that. One day, my girl Tasha told me that she was my best friend when she wasn’t, cause she told Shay Shay the same thing and she was lying to both of us cause she was really Zenobia’s best friend anyway.” She looked thoughtful, pursing her lips and looking up. “I was so happy, cause she’s so popular and has all the new Bratz dolls and videos. But she just wanted to come to my party, and after it was over, she didn’t even talk to me again.”
I slowly closed my mouth, which had been hanging open throughout her poignant tale of pre-teen angst. I shivered in the Fall breeze, drawing my army coat closer about me, feeling the scraggly hair on my chin brushing against the high collar. The sensation soothed me, reminded me that I was still among the living. I breathed deeply of the pollution, looking down once again at the flower.
I gasped. Somehow, in the momentary distraction of companionship, the flower had been trampled. Rage welled up in me and i looked around, my eyes wild, for the culprit. I jumped to my feet, oblivious to the sight of the girl, eyes wide, backing away in fear.
“Who killed it? Who killed it! Who killed it?!” I screamed, tearing at my hair, stalking around the flower and laughing like a maniac.
The flower was dead, as she was to me, it had been taken from me by someone and I had missed it, talking to a little girl who had no business talking to strangers anyway. I stopped in my tracks, looking around wildly for her. I saw her, back in the crowd, which had opened a respectful circle around me, all of those eyes boring into me with hostility and fear. A big, black man wearing combat gear on a city street is a sight to instill fear in the bravest of hearts, apparently.
My eyes filled with tears as I held my hand out to her, seeing that other her in her, feeling her pain at being left, like I was left, at feeling like she had had it all, like I had had it all, or thought I did, and ending up with nothing, having nothing, with nothing to live for, no love, not even a school to go to or someone to hold me and tuck me in and love me and feel me and care for me and be with me and watch me like I watched that beautiful, city flower lost in a concrete jungle trying to find a way into the light, stretching, hoping against hope every day not to be trampled, not to be torn, rootless from the precious skin of Mother Earth and left to decay, trodden beneath the feet of remorseless giants, too busy about their business to care for just one, little, defenseless flower.
Overcome, I sank to my knees again, sobbing, torn. The ebon framework returned, the sound of life receded and a rock caught my eye, tumbling in slow motion from the tread of the unmistakeable blue-black of police-issue boots, stepping slowly toward me. I watched the rock come to a rest as they placed their hands on me and I let them lead me, unresisting, away from the dying flower, the rock and the precious little girl.
Where, it mattered not. Nothing mattered anymore, because I had nothing, wanted nothing, needed nothing. Not even pain and heartache filled my emptiness, anymore. An empty vessel, tabula rasa, hidden deep within myself and dispassionately observing life’s fell tread fall upon me, crushing me into oblivion.
My sweet, precious flower. I looked back, dully, into the crowd. There she was, eyes wide, watching. I loved her so.
I love her so.