This is for you, a message thirty years later from “Esmeralda the Gypsy,” who read your palm that Halloween, that brilliant, cold fall night when the whole university was out in costume. The maple candy melted in our mouths, and the deep red in the leaves chased the yellow away—do you remember we’d learned that only during a fall of cold, bright days, will the sugar in the maples freeze into red. Did street lights ever make a place more like a movie set? Or was it the thousands of students outside in costume? That giant carrot—I knew it was you—only you would have dyed a whole sheet electric orange, wrapped it around you tight from knees to head, chosen that wild carrot hair.I grabbed your carrot hands, turned them over, silently studied them before I told you the story of your life—who you loved, whether she loved you too, how many children, your happiness then and now, how much of yourself you give away in love, the steadiness of your heart, the difference between what’s left and what’s kept; what you’d made of what had been given you; what you’ve made by now of what you’ve been given. Turn it over—the back of your hand, this finger, here—you’re good at math? Yes, if you want to—you like to count, you. You don’t read, this is art you’ll never make, though the mind of genius will be in your hands—where do you lose your desire for it—and at that instant, an enormous rabbit sprang out of his hole to chase you, and you became a giant carrot with flying green crepe-paper hair running down the street, turning over cards and tables, changing candy for prayers and for dreams, and you ran off with the true love you’d find in your late twenties, your marriage, your generosity in love, and the children you’d have, all clutched in your hands— did you keep your fist closed long enough to put them, safe, under your pillow? I hear their candy wrappers and their screaming even now—was it delight or terror you felt? Were stage lights in the dark enough to turn you around, to chase the giant white rabbit away? At least you were on the right side of the looking glass—and there in the lights with thousands of students in costumes, we walked or ran or rolled in raked-up piles of leaves in front yards—that dazzling, numinous fall, and this is what I knew of you that would not be true for decades, but would be true nonetheless many times— the candy the lights your true love your long happiness the babies the bunny and I knew you, I knew you then.
Thanks to Ginosko Literary Journal for first publishing this piece, in October 2016 number 18.