Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Illumination

Ben Norwood


On a bright Saturday morning, Paloma Tomas power-walked toward her morning cappuccino at Starbuck's. The green disc was in sight when a brilliant light blinded her, caused her to close her eyes tight and bow her head. When the dazzle behind the eyelids dissipated enough to let her lift her head and look around, a slight tingle ran through her torso. She felt her heart stop for a beat.

Trees were still green and growing out of the earth. The asphalt street ran between the sidewalks. The sky was so blue and cloudless that it seemed opaque, a wall rising up behind the trees across the street. But her balance was slightly off.

She felt she might be swaying. Cement, asphalt, trees, sky all looked like they did before the flash but her perception of them had changed. The space between the trees had compressed. The sky closed in behind them. All things visible had moved closer together. The red brick façade of Saint Michael and All Angels Church seemed close enough to touch from where she stood on the sidewalk. She was conscious and lucid enough to know that she could not reach across that space. She had crossed the expanse from sidewalk to door to sanctuary every Sunday of her childhood until her junior year of high school. Only her mother's death had been strong enough to break that routine.

Paloma had not asked for this Saturday morning wrench of her life. She had not taken a drug. She had not prayed until her closed eyes were rimmed with the salt of dry tears. There had been no inspiration: not one song on the breeze, no lines of poetry bursting from memory, no beautiful sculpture in sight. She just walked down the sidewalk she had walked thousands of times, a wooded lot on the left, St. Mike's on the right, the new Starbuck's a block away. Nothing beyond her fingertips had changed after the blaze of light. She was aware of nothing more than breeze, light, clear sky; yet her relation to these things had changed. Their relation to each other had changed. And she was excited. Emotion welled-up inside her. Something new and grand was about to be revealed.

Then the curious perception: the wind blowing against her right eye. Not the left eye, just the right one. She put her finger up to the right lens of her glasses. The finger passed through the opening in the frame where the lens should have been. She cleaned both lenses before she put the glasses on. Now the right one was gone. She removed the thin, gold-rimmed spectacles. Trees and sky shifted back into perspective. Her balance was restored.
She reached down to the right lens which lay concave side up on the sidewalk. She slid it and the now-worthless spectacles into the pouch of her leather book cover that wrapped her copy of Meister Eckhart's Ecstatic Confessions. She smiled a smile that bent her lips down at the corners. The surge of emotion receded. She could almost hear a wave's backwash sliding along the sand, thousands of tiny bubbles popping in an audible contagion. Were all the mystics mistaken? Had they simply never found the lost lens or heard about the sensitivity of retinas to penetrating flashes of light?

Paloma still wants the illumination that is not the glint of light off a falling lens. But she cannot wait any longer. There are errands to run. There will always be errands to run after a stiff cup of coffee.

She will never mention this incident to anyone.

***

Ben Norwood is a resident of Williamson County and a member of the Tennessee Writer’s Alliance. He is the author of one book of poetry, Plenum, which was published by the SRLR Press in 1999, and The Odes of Ricardo Reis, a translation from the Portuguese of Fernando Pessoa, which is due to be published by Gavea-Brown Publications of Brown University in 2005.

© Ben Norwood

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012