Susan lost her glasses one morning, early before seven o’clock, while she was hiking along the American River Parkway. She was crossing the broad pedestrian bridge that spans the river between William Pond Park and Riverbed Park when she heard the river calling to her. This had happened before, rarely of course, but Susan had learned to listen for it. The river travels a long way from Mount Shasta through northern California forest, meandering through the valley, carrying the words of tree bark and pebble, hawk and crane, babbling in both pain and joy, braided together, mostly incoherent to human ears, but once in a while, just once in a while, someone like Susan will hear a phrase, maybe even a sentence. And why wouldn’t she? Particularly this year, when the snow had been heavy, and the melt profuse?
So Susan stepped to the bridge railing, the domain of spider and acorn woodpecker, the walker’s refuge from cycling teams and marathon trainees. She stepped up and she looked down at the rushing flow, so loud, so insistent, so rhythmic and beautiful, and she heard the water’s mysterious whisper. But just then, at that moment, her glasses slipped. They fell so quickly, the pads sliding on her nose (so well buttered with sunscreen) and the temples leapt away from her ears. It all happened so fast and then with blurry eyes she watched her bifocals tumbling, lens over stems, down into the water, and they sunk seamlessly into the current, disappearing like salt into soup.
Getting back to the car was a dizzying blur. Susan was aware, as never before, of the color of leaves and blossoms and florescent green yellow pink T shirts worn by young runners. Grateful that her car was small and deep blue in a lot of white, beige, and gray vehicles, Susan was shocked to detect that her car had been burgled!!—the hatchback jimmied and left ajar. Yet nothing had been taken! Her purse sat undisturbed in the open trunk. No, the interloper had left books! The car was filled with books and books, and books—no, wait a minute—it was the same book, multiple copies of the same book. A cook book in fact. A large print cookbook, illustrated with glossy color photographs: yellow lemons, red cabbages, baked sweet potatoes sliced open to display fluffy orange flesh, impossibly large blueberries, magenta raspberries, red strawberries. Susan, barely able to read the large print, fell in love with the spectrum, the full array of color. In an epiphanous flash, she knew herself to be more than hybrid, more than biracial, more than trans. She was fully African, fully European, fully male, fully female, undivided, non-binary, whole and holy, authentically one.
Susan had a spare pair of glasses in their purse, of course they did, though they had told no one how prepared they were to navigate the ordinary and mundane, the bigotries and taunts. Now they would go to the farmers’ market, they would buy fresh produce. And at last the words of the river come back to them:
one, one, one
you and I
we are one, one, one
with the sea.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash