I tried to flee from her on my bike. The pedals went pretty fast, even under my weight, and kept me flying forward. Until my green jacket arm, until then tied around my waist, decided to get caught in the gears. I came to a screeching stop, muffled only by the sound of tearing fabric.
“Hey buddy, I just need some food,” came the scrawny voice, crawling out of a decrepit chest. It was too soon to tell what caused this malformation, but the hunchback gave away at least hints of osteoporosis.
It was also too late for me to make up a further excuse. Lacking current mode of transport, trying to pull out the torn sleeve, I gave up.
“Okay, I think I have something in my backpack.”
I reached in, a cavernous tanker now perched on the bike seat, where my ass had just been moments before. Beneath layers of paper, half read books, headphone cables, more paper, a crumpled bagel wrapper and a card from my grandma wishing me a happy birthday, I grabbed ahold of the prize.
“I have an apple juice, here,” I offered, and a hand that otherwise would function as a claw in an old Disney film reached out and receded with the box into her nether regions or side, not sure which.
Digging around a bit more, I came upon a familiar squeeze in my fingers, a folded and tense bit of metallic plastic wrap that meant only one thing. “Here, one of those of breakfast bars. It’s kind of mushy but it should taste fine.” The claw repeated its extension and recession once again.
“Can I ask you something, though, in return?” the words sort of tumbled out, fumbling their way past the hesitant social acceptability in my head and the anxiety that dictated a need to just get going.
Her eyes looked back, curious and held in a gaze for the only moment of this fleeting encounter. “What?” she said.
“What do you think is your greatest contribution in life?” I asked, almost like a young rock journalist running out of interview steam, looking for a final zinger for an approaching deadline. “I’m a writer, so I always write down things about people I encounter.” I already had my hand on one of my useful pens.
Those eyes shifted. 45 degrees right, 57 degrees up, and fixated on the skyscraper above, a blue mirror of reflected clouds and seagulls. For a moment of this contemplation, I almost thought I would get an answer. Instead, following the same direction as her glare, the woman escaped the inquisition and melted into the brick lane of garbage cans, soiled mattresses and pools of collecting rain water and urine.
Years later, long after we were both gone, a glorious sight appeared on the river side downtown in a far, far away city. A rib cage, potentially human, even, washed up on the sand. The ribs were not predictably aligned, however, instead encapsulated and entwined into each other like antlers of the final great battle between two valiant stags.
On the tips of each ivory scrubbed stem, a pink bouquet of cherry blossoms bloomed. The petals, carried honestly with the intentions of a saint, later flew away from the ribs and fertilized the hillsides until they were pink, too.