by Lale Davidson
What do I want most in the world?
I walk with my new husband and two socialite friends through Central Park.Â The fan-shaped Ginkgo leaves are already turning yellow and fluttering down.Â The low grey sky is beginning to let down water.Â Â My hands are cold and tangled in the holes of my coat pocket, a coat my husband has begged me to replace.Â It reflects badly on him, he says.Â I step ahead of them.
Suddenly I hear a ruffling explosion, like a hundred sheets unfurled and snapping in storm wind.Â A flock of pigeons beats the air with feather and bone as they take off at a severe angle straight for my head. I duck and turn, swirling out of my previous orbit.Â They cross over me, their destination the other bank, and descend slowly, whirring all around an old woman I had not seen standing there before, a woman whose hair is much too black, thick and long for her age, a woman who stands there facing me with an enormous plastic bag of crumbs.Â I cannot make out her eyes at that distance, but her chin is up and she seems to be looking straight, not around, not up, or down at the pigeons framing her, but straight across, at me. For a second, with the pigeons graphing the air in even points from high to low, from deep to shallow, the woman is suspended in mid air, like the Magritte painting of floating business men.
What I want most is for this woman who stands amidst the flock of pigeons in Central park, this woman whose face is deeply lined, whose orange-red lipstick stands out across the grays of late fall, I want this woman, whose arthritic hands firmly pat a pigeon nestled in the hollow of her neck, under her matted, frazzled, plastic black hair, this woman who is dressed in so many layers of clothes that she is round
â€“this homeless woman, who has brought a black bag full of crumbs to the birds in the park, this woman who must have picked the garbage for these crumbs, or who has struck up an acquaintance with the cooks of certain restaurants
â€“this woman whose figure has caused a riot of flapping wings
â€“this woman whose eyes are occluded by thick black eyelinerâ€¦
I want this old woman to lift her eyes and say, I bless you.