©2011 Odilia Rivera Santos
I am on the train, connected to my computer with fingers and ears, listening to Harry Shearer speak about our strange times. If you pay attention, there is always something fascinating in the world at which we may stare in awe or listen in total bewilderment. Cervantes’s and Shakespeare’s consciousness were uprooted and planted elsewhere by learning of a new world, and our modern-day terrain of discovery is not a literal but a figurative terrain as limitless as the billions of connections made each day.
We wander through each other’s minds and wonder if the online self is a true depiction of the physical character behind it or a dilution or a concentrated version.
I was riding my bike through Harlem and glanced at a little boy who was pushing a toy shopping cart down the street. It was a gorgeous bright end-of-summer day, and when the breeze blew, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back. He looked to be inhaling the sensation of the day and capturing its beauty unencumbered by anyone’s demands. His mother yelled his name and asked him to walk faster. He opened his eyes and ignored her. In those moments of disconnecting from the demands of life’s modern pace, I imagine he traveled far and recorded all those things we no longer see as we travel up into adulthood.
There are simple acts in the everyday we take for granted or do not examine closely enough to see the intricate design. I haven’t stared at a snowflake in ten years.
Children always make time to observe; adults step on the ant mound a child would observe happily for hours, stick in hand, trying to improve dexterity and telepathic powers enough to make the ant walk from one end of the stick to another until the tiny ant feet set foot on the child-hand.
My mind drifts to the anthills of humanity in which people strive to move a bit of crumbs around and fight and become jealous at the thought of someone having a bigger crumb. And in the end, it's all crumbs they fight about.
But back to the humanity of the train before the first hurricane to hit the city since the nineteenth century according to one report. People are calm just as the weather is before all hell breaks loose.
I allow my eyes to drift, as if spinning a wheel to see where they land.
A tourist with family in tow!
The tourist to my left accompanied by his wife and daughter is wearing boating shoes without socks and his wedding band is imbedded, like a journalist in a war zone. The flesh has grown, making of the matrimony a wound.
He decides to take a photo of his wife and daughter, and since they’ve been together so long, he doesn’t say a word. It felt like the right time I guess. Before he touched the camera case, his wife and daugter look up from their books to pose. The daughter instantly freezes into a photogenic smile and the wife stares stoically.
I wonder if it is contentment, subdued happiness or acquiescence binding the trio and I could easily slip into writing a novel with these characters as a centerpiece and ten others as small planets revolving around them. They might be French Jews or German descendents of aristocrats. Anyway, I guess observance is the least you can do for the world that sustains us writers.