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
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
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.
Norwood is a resident of Williamson
County and a member of the Tennessee Writers 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.