I'm reading in a cafe in the Mission, looking up now and then from my book at the people coming and going. Most of them are young and beautiful - men and women - and they carry an awareness of this, like the sunshine edging in through the open front of the cafe.
A tiny woman enters, delicate-boned, made even smaller by the vicious curve of her spine, curling her completely over like a hook. Her skin is dark brown with large black freckles along her shoulders, the straps of her overalls hanging around her elbows.
A rope of drool hangs from her mouth, catching the light. She holds a brightly colored box of Trix in front of her as she wobbles toward the back of the cafe like a shield, a talisman.
I think about oracles in ancient Greece.
People in the cafe look and not-look as she passes. She disappears behind a corner near the restrooms, and one of the waitresses moves to talk with her. I can hear her speak, but I can't make out the words. Her voice is creaky as a cartoon witch's, words punctuated with a truculent "Aaaaah!"
The waitress disappears into the kitchen, and she fills the space with her voice: "Aaaah. Aaaaah! Aaaaah."
The waitress re-emerges with a plastic cup filled with milk, gaily-colored balls of cereal floating at the top, and a spoon.
"Thank you," scratches out the woman.
Her box of cereal replaced with this cup of baubles, she holds it aloft and retraces her path back through the room. She bumps into a woman as she passes, apologizing, and the woman shrinks away, looking her up and down with unveiled horror before her eyes sheath over with not-seeing.
"Thank you, Pumpkin," calls the hook-shaped woman one more time as she disappears into the hard light of the sun.