Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Artist

She knelt among the rocks, on the uneven ground that led up to the main road. She was on a corner, where the busy main street crossed over the park road on a flat wide bridge with arches of brick and rusty lamps hanging from its underside. From where she knelt, she could look over the road to the treetops on the other side, she could look at the trees that were right next to her, covering the edge of the road with shadows and green, she could look at the people passing under the bridge, in bikes and cars and on foot, sometimes looking up at the cars whistling by or at her, but mostly looking straight ahead while talking or listening to music on headphones.
She spread a wide fragile piece of thin paper over a rock and traced the edge with a soft pencil. Then she looked up again. The sky was bright blue above her, and it covered the day in softness and hope. Her own hands were a bit scarred from the hard work of many years but they felt soft and young on a day like this, when the wind blew through the branches just enough to make them sing and the sunlight came down upon her like a gift that never ends. She made another trace with the pencil and looked up again. The cars on the main street had stopped momentarily and she could hear the thumping of a loud bass coming from a long red Chevrolet. She made another gesture with the pencil, trying to capture the sound in a quick movement of her wrist. There was laughter coming from another car and the sound of loud children screaming coming from another. She looked up again and then the cars moved, and there was a blurry parade of faces in profile, of metallic colors and spinning wheels, all drenched over the placid and static figure of the bridge that stood solid and heavy underneath it all. She looked down at the park road where a young girl in a bicycle was riding by. There was another quick gesture of her wrist and a very light marking on the paper that she held and then the girl in the bicycle was gone.
She stood up momentarily, looking over at the couple just around the trees. The dark haired woman was on her back and the serious looking man was above her, looking deeply into her eyes. She knelt again and made another quick gesture on the paper. A strong wind came by just then and the large paper wiggled and waved in her hands. She held it tight and looked at the couple again. The man was slipping away and the woman was looking up at him with a trace of anxiety. One more flick of the wrist and something remained, a quick reflection of that which was already gone. A bird perched on a branch several feet above her. She looked up and the quick staccato sound of its melody came to her through the brown web of the branches. Again she looked down at the paper and made a quick gesture, leaving traces of melody and wing and beak and tiny bubbles that were eyes on the yellowish paper that she held in her hands.
She looked further down the road, towards the west, where the road curved away by the side of a wall of jagged brown rocks. A little stream ran next to the sidewalk there and she saw two women walking slowly by the water, smiling and trading words and phrases like bits of soft bright sand. She looked down at her paper, which was now getting crowded, and she made a few more gestures, trying to catch the slow movement of their steps, the ease of their voices, the watery music of the stream next to them. She looked a bit to her left and there were two men riding up in slim sport bikes. She made very quick gestures on the paper that would capture the silver of the light upon the wheels, the lightning icon on their helmets, the strong solid eyes that looked further down the road.
She took a deep breath and surveyed her work, a scattering of quick curves and marks over a large yellowish paper that still rustled in the wind, eager to fly away. She nodded and started to roll it up into a smooth even tube. The meaning was unspoken, the representation was obscure, the transmission was complete.

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