Once, Marenna and I were sitting at an outdoor restaurant eating potato
fritters, watching the sea. Then Marenna pointed to a figure coming over
the hill. It was a black woman dressed in a nun's habit, also black. At
her breast there was a small silver crucifix. You could not see her feet.
It was hot and neither of us could imagine how she could endure the heavy
clothes. As she came closer, we saw that there was a gold ring on her right
hand. Just as her shadow passed by our small table, Marenna called out,
"Sister, stop and rest with us."
The nun turned around and, sitting down, smiled at us.
In the following hour, she told us that she was part
of a group that had been sent to work at the church. All the rigid distance
of her appearance seemed to have been a mistake. She spoke naturally, but
with little liveliness or inflection. She told us of how she woke up at
five o'clock in the morning. How they would walk the length of the beach
and speak to one another of the tasks accomplished during the day. Particularly
unendurable to me was the idea of hour long prayers. I felt I could endure
such a life if only a belief in God were not a prerequisite; if the body
were denied, could not the mind, at least, go rampant, flourish in a wild
dissarray? I wanted to tell her this, to see her response. Abruptly, she
rose, shaking the table, and told us that she had to finish some shopping.
She invited us to her church and we never went.
I only mention this because her dusty figure often appears in the corner
of my eye; a brief glimpse; a mistake, a goblin because she is inverse,
with black eyes.
In my dreams, she stands at the hill, still a stranger. The sun heats her
black habit, the dust turns the hem and lower half of her habit a pale brown.
There is a wooden rosary dangling at her hand. The unseen feet. Her expression
is fixed, unfriendly. Her hands rub together like
a fly cleaning itself.
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