Naomi

Posted: April 18, 2009 in City, Dark, Imagery, Life, Musings, Night, Snippet, Thoughts, Women
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Walking out of the restaurant, I remember turning back to take my nephew’s hand and seeing her, heading easily towards me. I remember hoisting my nephew up into my arms and smiling at her, pleased and slightly wary to see her.
Seeing Naomi had always put me into a sense of caution, and I’ve never figured it out. It’s like I feel my every move will be judged for its worth, as if I’m some sort of marionette on display for a queen.
She blinked, as if she couldn’t believe her eyes, seeming not to recognize me for a moment. No surprise there; the last time she had seen me was when I had hair down to my shoulders and a perpetual outfit of jeans and a t-shirt.
I remember that day my hair was short and swept back from my forehead, given some lift a few dabs of wax. I had a goatee and sideburns running down my face, a loose-fitting blue-and-white striped long sleeve, and dark khakis. I looked like a completely different person.
And I was. The looks and the confident smile took her off guard, I could tell. Where were the downcast eyes, the sloppy clothes, the quiet demeanor that had defined me for so long? I liked the effect, I have to admit, the changes that have made me into this person.
The wariness I felt was gone; the balance of power, which had always been firmly in her court over the years we had known each other, had shifted my way. She gave me her trademark one-armed hug, a lazy movement that belied her true lethargy, and I returned it with another broad smile.
Back from when my family and I moved from Meiner’s Oaks into Ojai proper is about how long we had known each other. I remember her mom, Diane, was friends with my mom; she would always cut my hair at her Contempo beauty salon.
(Not until years later would I realize that it was a woman’s beauty salon. Before that I had just assumed men never came around while I was there.)
We had met through the parental connection, along with some other kids from my neighborhood. Always there was that uncomfortable caution I felt with her, the feeling of the marionette, of the caged animal watched by its captors. Perhaps not that extreme, but you can understand how I felt. Intimidated, perhaps because she was one of a precursor of those girls I would encounter throughout school life; pretty, popular, and with next to zero interest in me (for some reason, the latter was an attractive quality).
But standing in that parking lot with her, as we talked about college and plans for the summer, all I could think of was how short she really was. Almost half my height, really. It almost made me laugh, though of course I didn’t. I had been wary of this small girl? Afraid that if I said the wrong thing it would haunt me for the rest of my life? This was the real evidence for me, the final fact that I had changed from quiet, unassuming and passive Luke to someone who could actually interact with those around him with confidence and poise.
We said our goodbyes, and I gave her one last look into her deep brown eyes. I couldn’t see anything, least of all anything scary or intimidating. They were just blank, and that made me sad. I could see the choices she had made had never been the best they could have been, and it reflected in those deep brown eyes.
I remember she turned and walked away, and I gave her one last look before turning and taking my nephew’s hand.

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Comments
  1. carole cromwell paddock says:

    boy you sure hit a few nails on the proverbial head. insightful. sweet growth. i love u madre

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