A hot pink bag hangs in my closet, sealed shut. Not opened in weeks. Inside, the dress is pristine. The perfect shade of not-white. Ready for September.
Next to it, on the floor, are my work boots, first bought for a trip to Morocco, where I helped (very little) to build a bathroom for a family. They are a bit too narrow, and on Saturday, I burnt a whole through one side when I stood in the embers of a bonfire too soon.
This incongruity is completely congruous. My life in a 4×4 closet that used to be a second entrance to my farmhouse bathroom. A wedding gown and work boots. Just the thought feels right.
I sat on my couch this morning, a cup of coffee going cold at my feet, and read Lia Purpura’s essay “Jump.” A piece inspired by a tiny sign on a bridge in Iowa.
Purpura unfolds the sign. Unwraps her ideas about it. Tries to lay her mind’s fingers against what captures her in its language.
The whole piece hinges on her observation. On her first seeing the sign. Then her puzzlement at it. Then her own thoughts. Then, the newspaper articles about the death. Then, even, her own open, unpacked language as a writer.
It is the quintessential essayist’s essay. Focused on the small and spread out like flailing arms for the whole world.
I read it and think of the young woman abducted from this town where I live.
The tiny ping (even the word is tiny) led them to the road a mile from my house. The car left empty at a movie theater. The scent dogs followed – faint and true – to apartments.
I think how much I might have missed, how much I didn’t see when her car came past the end of my driveway. Was she screaming and pounding on the windows? Was she unconscious with her hand draped against the rear glass? Was she silent and terrified in the front seat?
Did I see her and not know it? Or did she not make it this three miles? (Please, God, let her have made it past me.)
What if I saw as well as Purpura? What then?
Yesterday, when I laid my mom’s sandals – the cheaper version of Birkenstocks that she wore in the summer before she died – when I laid them on top of my work boots, I saw.
The way the brown of the boots coordinates with the hot pink of the dress bag. How the size of the closet required them to hang there, next to each other, details set in contrast to make a whole. A story captured in leather and not exactly lace. Right there and yet almost not seen.
Like Alexis Murphy grabbed from a busy gas station in broad daylight.
An event missed and now pieced together by FBI, police officers, neighbors, and family. A STORY – full caps, big, national.
A story we hope to know . . . and we pray will turn to comedy like Shakespeare, all pastoral weddings and dancing.