Under cover of night, I returned. The light from Carla’s television cast dancing silhouettes against the drawn curtain of her home, and it wasn’t until 9:47 p.m. that the light in the right front upstairs window turned on. From my station on the sidewalk opposite 1950 Parapet Way, I watched the cherry-blossom pink walls of the room illuminate, harshly at first … then six minutes and fourteen seconds later, dim to a warm glow.
I imagined Carla reading a bedtime story, her little puppet’s eyes dancing across the pages as Mother decoded the strange symbols on the page into words. Pretty pictures paired with the comforting tone of the voice she’d known farther back than her memory could ever comprehend. A bunny perhaps. A magical cat. Or maybe a curious little monkey.
At 9:59 the light in the pink room went out, but no other lights followed.
I imagined Carla asleep in the rocking chair, close enough to her daughter’s crib to scoop her up in an instant and flare her teeth in a ferocious mama bear smile should any intruder dare threaten their peaceful kingdom.
At 2:42 in the morning, the light in the living room blinked on. At 2:43 the shades pulled back, ever so slightly, and the streetlights briefly illuminated Carla’s face as she peered out onto the street.
I hadn’t moved since my arrival earlier that night and remained rooted to my spot as her eyes fell upon me.
And you keep still because you think that maybe her visual acuity is based on movement like T-Rex, she’ll lose you if you don’t move. But no, not Carla VanNeal. You stare at her, and she just stares right back.
She stares back. But does she see me? Does she see me as I see her?
Do I even see her? What do I see? Certainly not what I am looking for, because when I find what I’m looking for I’ll know it when I see it.
Time. Time is needed. Time and the pathway will unfold.
At 3:17 in the morning the roots sprout from my feet, and burrow through the concrete. I feel it crack as the little tendrils break through the tiny pores in the false stone, breaking it into dust as they expand and dig deeper and deeper. Down through the concrete, into the cavernous sewers, spreading up and down the streets. Yet as they spread, they dig deeper still. Deeper than the sewers, down into the rich, nourishing earth below.
And as my roots grow downward, my being spreads above. I raise my arms in a Jesus Christ pose, and the veins and arteries within me sprout new branches – brethren of my arms. The neurons in my brain expand, out my ears and eyes into branches of their own. I am a being of energy, more luminous than the brightest sun, yet invisible to the eyes of man.
I am the tree that overtakes the street. I am that which man sees yet does not appreciate. No one will see me if I remain still, for I am simply a decoration. Pay no mind to the purpose I serve, converting the waste of man’s exhalation into energy of my own. A pretty little flower.
I open my mouth wide, making a hole for the birds to nest.
Carla cannot see me, but when she wakes in the morning and bundles her daughter in the stroller for their morning walk, my shadow will reign supreme over them both.