My Josephine.

0000908322-65664LThere is a woman. I don’t know her, but she intrigues me. It’s been awhile. It’s been awhile since I’ve been intrigued by someone in this particular way: the way of someone young and curious, the way of someone with time to watch people and ponder, the way of someone who might be taking a short fiction workshop, the way of someone more interested in looking at everyone else than herself.

If you live where I live, you may have seen her. She is tall and has short hair that looks like an afterthought – neither unruly nor too kept. She is a light skinned black woman. She waits for the bus. Sometimes she walks. Once I saw her on her bike, bundled up against the wind, a scarf around her head, big glamourous sunglasses hiding her face. But I knew it was her. I can spot her from a mile away. She just has one of those bodies that cuts the air in an unmistakeable and completely unique way.

50th Street seems to be her artery, or maybe it’s mine, because this is mostly where I see her. She doesn’t have a car, and if she does, she chooses not to use it. Her feet point out slightly, giving her a peculiar gait, at once graceful and gangly. She reminds me of Josephine Baker. Maybe she’s a dancer. Maybe she has a lonely heart. 

If she’s not a dancer, surely she should try it.

She waits at the bus stop, not reading, not talking on the phone. Simply waiting. Is she waiting for something else? Besides the bus? Because who does that? Wait for the bus, not reading, not talking on the phone?

I wonder.

I would like to watch her dance.

It’s been a long time since I’ve wondered about someone like this. In Boston there was a man who used to floss his teeth in the street with an absurdly long piece of floss, his hands held at least twelve inches apart. No dental hygienist had taught him how to roll it around his index fingers and so he played his teeth like a cello. I used to wonder about him. The homeless man with impeccable dental hygiene. 

She reminds me of Josephine Baker. Maybe that’s why I think she should dance, because really, nothing else about her seems like a dancer. She has a long, strong, flat footed stride. But then again, so did Josephine Baker.

In Southbend there was a little old couple who used to walk around campus holding hands. They were always impeccably turned out – he in a hat, overcoat, and natty suit, she in a neat twin set, a matching tweed jacket and skirt, stockings, sensible shoes. Gray and twinkling, they were throw-backs to a time of tailors, dressmakers and haberdasheries, of yellowed measuring tape, pins and dashes of chalk. I used to wonder about the little old couple. How had they managed to stay in love for so many years? What had they survived in order to walk hand in hand under the shade of the trees?

I wonder if her job involves paper. She looks like she pours over words, possibly numbers, her torso curled into a C in her chair. She probably has to speak only sparingly, a polite word at the soda machine, an update for her boss. Words may bring her pleasure, but I suspect it’s not the spoken kind. Her desk is either really messy or really neat. Not in between. And she has little gold frames with pictures of children, though not her own. Sweet dimpled faces of a niece and a nephew, but from a few years ago. They must look so much older now. I don’t think her office has a window, but what do I know?

Maybe if she danced, it would make her smile. 

I wonder.

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4 Responses to “My Josephine.”

  • lady homeslice Says:

    ok…wild….I know this woman who you so beautifully and accurately describe. She is the sister of one of my dear friends’. I understand why she fascinates. There are many stories……
    I’m constantly blown away by the small-ness of this town/world. It is both comforting and disturbing.
    well done my friend.

  • peevish mama Says:

    Shut up, Lady Homeslice!!! You can be sure I will kidnap you soon so you can tell me all about her! I suppose this is the difference between wondering in one’s head and wondering out loud. I am both fascinated and riddled with doubt that I might have somehow done her a disservice with my musings. She does cut a lovely figure in this land of blonds and moms, minivans and fleece.

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