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Long live all maidens

easy and beautiful !

Long live mature women also,

Tender and loveable and full of good labor. 

Gaudeamus Igitur

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Saturday
Mar272010

Opera Lady

As promised (several times) here is Opera Lady. I plan on bringing copies to class next week when it will be my turn to entertain all of you aspiring writers. It’s only vaguely ‘memoirish’ as I wrote it one day after seeing this woman near Bloor and Sherbourne, AND it is third person. Maybe I can introduce the piece by saying something grand like ... and this immortalizes my parents: my father’s total lack of compassion and my mother’s inane belief in a compassionate god. That might go over well with Miss Francine. Looking forward to what you have to say about it. 

Sarah

 

Opera Lady

Sarah had seen the woman before. How could she forget those Gene Wilder eyes?  She had been on the early morning train a few weeks ago.  Here she was again, this time exiting at the same station. While pretending to read the headlines on the newspaper boxes, Sarah let the woman get ahead, wondering if other panhandlers took the subway to their job sites. Outside, the dusty darkness was just lifting, and Sarah watched as the woman prepped her corner of the world. First she slipped a plastic bag out of her pocket and then laid it on the damp sidewalk. Next she heaved her skirts high, exposing thin bare legs, and finally, let herself down with deliberate precision so that she landed directly on the intended spot.  

By now, Sarah was next to her and she caught sight of cracked flaky skin on dirty feet. Immediately and with almost indiscernible movements, the woman slid both feet under a thick layer of skirts, spreading the top skirt in front of her as if she were on stage. Sarah, humbled by the woman’s sense of pride, smiled at her, but the woman was preoccupied with arranging and rearranging her clothing. Then Sarah remembered her father telling all his girls: never look a homeless person in the eye.  Her mother had countered with well … you have to give something because it could be Jesus in disguise. And Sarah had laughed and answered maybe in Orillia, mom, but not in downtown Toronto, unless your Jesus has multiple personalities. Her father had immediately attempted to quash the diatribe, but Sarah wouldn’t let him and in an audible mumble she said ask dad how I’ll know if Jesus is trying to make eye contact if I don’t look at him. Not all the crazies were on the street, thought Sarah.

After work, Sarah headed toward the woman from another angle and saw that she had removed a layer of clothing because her white fleshy chest now poured out of a tight sequined top. Her hair was pulled back into a type of chignon and pinned back with a red plastic comb, loose strands falling along the back of her neck. Sarah hated seeing her exposed in the merciless afternoon light, but at the same time, she felt contempt for her.  It was the same disdain she experienced when she sat too close to the stage at the theater and glimpsed missing buttons and frayed collars. 

Normally Sarah went out of her way to avoid street people bums, as her father called them when he visited Toronto. She had to tell him to control his face and body language, because if someone ever threw a punch, he’d be sorry. They’d both be sorry.  Although a few times she caught herself mouthing the word bum when passing the creepy girl who begged right outside her office tower; the one with the empty baby stroller. One time, Sarah even pointed to the dilapidated thing and asked in a low voice so what’s that supposed to symbolize? Without losing a beat, the girl had called out bitch. 

The next morning, Sarah left her flat later than usual, deciding to make eye contact with the woman. Not because she believed that her mother’s god was present in the vagrant soul, but because there was something different about this one. When Sarah came out of the subway and onto the street the woman was already seated, but unlike the day before, she was very still, as if she were focusing on some great deed that needed concentration. 

Just as Sarah started crossing the street, she heard the singing. In the intense morning light, the woman, now standing, was silhouetted against the pink streaked sky, arms flailing, looking like some huge bird about to take flight. The voice was loud and tremulous, and Sarah could almost see the sound rising out of the woman’s breast. Don’t sing. Don’t sing. You don’t have to sing Sarah said out loud. When a taxi driver yelled at her to get the fuck off the street, Sarah turned and ran back to the other side still chanting don’t sing, don’t sing, and she kept running until she could no longer hear the woman’s laments.

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