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New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Outside the Public Senses

March 27, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Guest Author

He Hated Her for Who (S)He Was…

by Lily Liu

The long-awaited river flowed from her, streaming into the dirt as if it had been destined to breathe life into the chrysanthemums creeping from the ground. Relief filled her body as the tension dripped out, joining nature’s soil through its earthly movement.

He watched her from behind a sea of glass. Comfortable, yet irritated at the faint smell of lemon air purifier wafting from the restrooms down the hall, he wished the lemon smell, and the smells they meant to cover, could be contained. Those things weren’t meant for the public nose.

She rocked, singing joyous prayer into the passing wind. Each note warmed her throat as she sought expression, as she felt her happiness ooze from her lips. She swung her arms outward with the wings of the nearby pigeons who, startled by the outbreak of song, were flapping in chaos.

Still watching, he thanked the sea of glass for breaking sound. He preferred the predictable tics of his desk clock, the steady buzz of the pure fluorescent lighting, the controlled tapping of his shoes against his desk. Spontaneous emotions were meant for dramatic effect at friendly gatherings. Public displays of self ought to be acts of refinery. Only premeditated proverbs for the public ear.

She took in sustenance, warming her stomach with barley, potatoes, and wheat, fermented and carrying new life through her veins as she suckled the paper-wrapped bottles. Each mouthful opened her up, kept her alive, rushed warm hope through her soul. She swayed, feeling the spirit course through her veins.

He stood at the far end of his spacious office, where he sometimes entertained his clients. Swirling the remains of a touch of whiskey in his glass, he shook his head in disbelief. Having spirits was a dirty privilege, meant for controlled solitary enjoyment behind closed doors, or premeditated group debauchery within safe walls. No tainted intake for the public mouth.

Her plastic bag split at the seams, catapulting years of desperate hoarding into the crisp spring air. Fraying bras, tattered undergarments, a half-opened bag of what looked like diapers for the elderly tumbled onto the concrete. Unmoved, she slowly called them back into their place, the bras and underwear at the bottom, the diapers nestled on top. She didn’t blush.

He did, as he unconsciously re-tucked in his shirt, and finger-combed his hair. Such things so close to the body were not meant for the public eye.

She drifted into sleep in a heap under her newly split bag, a peaceful lump in a concrete jungle.

He turned off his lights, completing another day at the office, and ready to return to the comforts of his wife and dog at home. Home, where he didn’t have to watch a woman so freely be everything he was, everything he repressed, outside his office window. Home, where he could be that woman outside of the public senses.

Lily Liu is a senior at Georgetown University.  This essay originally appeared on the blog site for a course on Homelessness and Social Justice in the spring of 2014.

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