A young African family. Father in a blue dashiki, mother in brown batik cloth and mauve headscarf, two screeching-and-running small boys in shorts, sandals, and brightly-printed shirts. The language they were speaking was none that I recognized by ear: not English, not French, not Arabic. (Not German, Spanish, Romanian, Scots Gaelic, Lowland Scots, or Latin, either, but then those aren't reasonable options.)
A round-shouldered elderly man dressed in denim overalls, a starched white shirt, and an old-fashioned railroadman's cap, with eyes that looked at nothing I could see. He carried his money-order form to the side counter and worked on it patiently, silently, for quite a long time. He had the face of an Inca priest.
A handsome young couple, glowing happily and laughing about getting a post-office box together. She had caramel skin and a cloud of loose black curls. He was bitter chocolate, muscular, dreadlocked. They stood as close together as breathing. They had the same bone structure, the same eyes, the same hands.
Seen at a chapel in E______, Kansas, Sunday morning, May 21, 2006:
Two glass vases of red roses at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary. The water in the vases dried up days ago; the roses are dark and papery. Their heads hang down, as if the statue's pointing hands blasted them instead of blessing them.
Quite unexpectedly, all this led to writing.
After the Hyakugan Maoh’s fortress, Cho Gonou has one more visit to make.
The statue of the Virgin smiles blandly down on him from her altar niche. Her face, he knows, is not misted red with blood; it is his eyes that see rose-color instead of buff and blue.
The statue of the Virgin spreads her hands (your hands are beautiful, Gonou) over two glass vases at her feet. No one refilled the water today. The red roses are dead and dried. Their heads droop pitifully, pleadingly, submissively.
Mother of mercy. Goddess of compassion. Marie, Mary, Maria, Miriam, Kwan Yin, Kanzeon, Kannon.
He smashes the smiling plaster face, the pale plaster hands. It had been the last face left whole in the orphanage. The last pair of clean hands.
Leaving, Cho Gonou walks (bleeds, stumbles) on broken glass and the entrails of roses.