All at once I'm about 16 or 17 years old. I'm too old to be mistaken for a child, and too young to be mistaken for a woman, and I feel the woman I am becoming, quietly waiting inside my body. She is soft and feminine, and she is waiting. She smiles a lot, but laughs rarely. And she loves haunting antique shops, looking for the odd beauty. I feel as if I am that woman/girl again, out on my own, walking, looking, privately reveling in the freedom and the scent of the air - slightly musty inside the shop, slightly tainted with exhaust fumes from the passing cars outside the shop.
I've just done something unusual. Instead of looking and passing by, instead of the satisfaction I can usually get from being near all of these things so full of their stories, I have bought something. It's a little box. Well, not that little. It's about the size of a music box I had when I was a girl, but it's made of the most exquisitely veined wood, polished to perfection under some kind of metal work design. I mean, the box is wooden, and glossy, and there is an overlay of a kind of wrought iron work. Maybe silver. It looks like the gate at the back of the Lady Chapel in a church. On the top of the box, the metal work looks exactly like a gate - a slightly open one.
I've just bought this box. Without opening it. Somehow, I don't want to be near any other people when I open it. And it took all the cash I happened to have with me.
I don't want to go home. Not yet. I don't want to answer any questions about this purchase. I need to open the box somewhere beautiful, and so I stop in the park, and find a bench near some huge rhododendrons that are just about to blossom. Portland is full of parks like this - and full of rhodies, too. No one will bother me here. I look enough like a full grown woman that no one will bother me here.
The cheap plastic bag makes a stupid sound as I pull my box out onto my lap. Bright pink, too. Ick. I shove it under the edge of my thigh, between my leg and the bench so it won't blow away. What an obnoxious pink. Who makes that color and thinks it's a good idea?
I hold the box in my lap and wait. Savor this moment. Trace the silver work with my finger and try to find the pattern in it. And then I open it - and the slightly dusty smell of incense - the incense of the High Mass floats out into the air, almost too faint to notice.
I knew it! There is something in here! There is a sheaf of paper, tied with a cream colored grosgrain ribbon - did it used to be white? The ribbon has little spots on it, like the foxing on the edges of an old book. This ribbon might have once been white - there seems to be a different color under the cinched places in the knot.
The first page just has a scribbled signature on it.
Carefully, I put that page under all the others, and start to shuffle the other pages. I read,
Can an author ever tell how and why his imagination gives birth to a certain character? The mystery of artistic creation is the mystery of birth itself. A woman may desire a child, but the desire, however intense it may be, does not suffice to create; and then one fine day she discovers that her desire is to be realized, but she cannot tell at what precise moment the life within her came into being. And in just the same way the artist, who gathers within himself innumerable germs of life, can never say how, or why, or at what precise moment one of these particles of life has lodged in his imagination, there to become a living creature inhabiting a plane of life superior to our voluble and vain daily existence.
Oh. Oh my.
I think I'm in love.