Few visages of children appear as though destiny is inscribed upon them. We’d all like to believe life is an open book shaped by the choices we make. Still, she had one of those faces: pale, putty-colored, cow-eyed. Her placid gaze was cool, arms hanging alongside slightly bulging sides like sausages. She was pleasant enough in company and thankfully in retrospect, I was never unkind. Still, there was never a compulsion to engage her in conversation for I could never imagine what, if anything, might spring forth from this Sphynx-like apparition.
Girls like her rolled through childhood, surprised if not dismayed by puberty, shocked into adolescence. Their first sexual affair was startling for the sheer animality of it. Outright enjoyment of the body for its own sake might never be theirs, yet they went on accepting what was given or coerced or even forced. Much like the spoon that fed them while young, direction was derived not from the substance and satisfaction of the meal itself so much as the conveyance that brought it to them. The kind of assertiveness necessary to procure or prevent or refine the quality of such things did not occur naturally if at all. And yet I wondered if young women like her discovered more acceptance of life on its own terms than did I, early on.
I often pondered while gazing at her, silent as stone alongside two animated little friends, how life would deliver what she needed. Likely she would cruise through school only to remain in that small community for life, with the same people she’d always known for better or worse. Likely she would see nothing like the vastness and wonder of this wide world, save what television projected onto the blank slate of imagination. Would that, along with babes strung on either ample hip, really prove satisfactory? And who was I to dispute another’s lifestyle?
What images lilted through her childhood fantasies, what future did she envision? Did she delude herself with fairytales, or would the coarse hand of another social pariah be all she might know or experiences of love? I shuddered to think what her home life consisted of, what freedoms she was afforded and at what cost.
Fifty years later arriving upon a similar scene, I am instantly transported back to that small clutch of girlfriends. Another appears on the horizon and yet more assume their place like miniature Stepford wives. If only I knew the fate of the first I once noticed, there might be comfort supplanting this icy grip of uneasiness. Still unsure, I cycle onward into the brilliance of the day.