Unsolicited Attention

I remember it was the age of fast music, swift strides, short conversations and quick glances. I do not have a comprehensive recollection since even these recordings on my mind were made quickly, and therefore only stuck like a drop of ink on a page. Claiming space, time and inflicting little pressure on my memory. The last days of those smelled like old books- the only thing that gave the impression of longevity. This smell stuck on the men, who drove the Cadillac that always ran out of gas and came too fast. Most of the women were brief- with tiny hands that always began knitting on sweaters before their small mouths sped the attention away. These women managed to go through their life in routine, with a commendable disinterest towards things that required more than they were used to give. They passed this indifference to their eight-year-old kids who could not tell the faces of their mothers from those of female strangers. It was then that a black woman surprised the people with her pace, a slight limp that slowed traffic when she crossed the street. From the bits of the story, it is said that she walked up to Mr. Hawkins’s restaurant on one morning in the spring, and he had given her the job to make cakes and watch the coffee. In the beginning, the office clerks could not trust her slow hands to pour their coffee while their fast-paced typewriters waited for them in the office. The restaurant therefore soon became a haven for the eight-year-olds who could not tell the faces of their mothers. They looked at the empty hall as they looked at the uncertainty of their tomorrow, with fondness only felt in momentary familiarity. The restaurant, unlike the rest of the town, allowed them moments to touch the feel of time as it were on their bodies and minds. The girls felt their breasts swell. The boys listened to their voices disintegrate to hide their emotions and focus on bits of punch, appropriation, and purpose. Soon, the teenagers would be seen with magazines that had only earlier been locked away in dusty cupboards. The woman felt the thickness of their conversations grow from slight pieces of words spoken too fast, into structured sentences that expressed a heavy need for space. So she ensured that she poured the coffee slowly into the huge cups, creating a moment for a conversation. She saw it when the mayor raped a girl, how much the people talked about it, something that had earlier not found a place between speedy Cadillacs and tiny knitting hands. On one winter evening, she was packing her bag when a knock came on the door. Three women stood at her doorstep and talked with a lisp. She recognized the women, their brows covered under huge layers of make-up. They looked better than they had looked when she had first seen them, hastily pointed out to her as the town whores, as they sped down the street. They had looked naked then, and she had wished that they would brush their eyes with some mascara to cover the shame they reflected in their eyes. Today, standing there, they looked like babies with coats of white innocence pasted on their skins. “The town is now talking about us. They never did that. It is bad for business”. They had told her. Later that evening, when she had settled on the train to what would become her next home, she had written them a note. ‘The recognition of the life between two seconds on a clock is what will give you a moment to live. They are now talking about you, and that is how you know it has begun. In silence is unjustified hatred and discrimination, the talk is a way to freedom. Trust the Strategy. For time, embrace yours’.

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