Friday, April 13, 2012

Girls of Peterborough

They are carefully brushed and polished and earringed, tender cleavage and legs. It’s spring today, finally, an ease and kindness on the breeze. Their hair shines, I believe it would feel like heavy water in my hands.

Ugh, my hair, says one, as it blows across her face, I’m gonna shave it off, I swear.

Her friends know she doesn’t mean it. They make lazy laughs and she adjusts her Jackie O sunglasses, lifts phone to ear.

They glance my way when they think I’m not looking, here across the terrace. We’re outside the chocolate shop with coffee (me) and ice cream (them), the waffle cone passes around the table for a lick from each pink tongue.

I am easily identifiable as an outsider. MacDowell sweatshirt over skirt over leggings, tennis shoes. I rode a bicycle here, provided by the Colony. It has my name on a tag on the handle, and no lock. No locks needed here, not even In Town, we’re told.

I worry about my brakes on the steep hill down from here, worry about the steep hill back up to the Colony. I’ll doubtless have to face the humiliation of hopping off the bike and pushing, at least part of the way. I say hopping off, but I mean a cumbersome hitch of the leg. I’m awkward on a bike, haven’t ridden one that fit me since I was eight years old, and my red, banana seat bike, my beautiful Christmas-present bike, was stolen in the first week I rode it to school. After that I rode my dad’s too-big bike, was hit, twice, by two different cars. One didn’t stop and left me to ride home in shock and bleeding down one half of my body. The driver of the second invited me in to tea. She apologized while I shook on her couch.

This bike fits, almost, almost perfectly. I’m learning how to ride again. It fits like this Colony, this place where all I have to do every day is put words on a page. I have a little house in the woods with a little bed, and a wood stove, and a big window onto trees and trees. Lunch appears in a Red Riding Hood picnic basket on my doorstep, every day at 12:30.

My first week here, I sat at my big wooden desk, and cried, every day, in front of the picture window, squirrels and chipmunks quarreling in the trees. I did nothing at all to deserve this.

I did nothing to deserve this, but every day I write. When it is cold, I build a fire. I love my neat little cabin in the woods. But I’m happy today to be at the chocolate shop, with the shining girls and their high heels, the father and daughters with their dogs, the soft cheeks of springtime against my skin.