A sickening heat rises from each one of my heels. The thin, papery skin of my foot, a sheet of gaunt white,  presses against the tight felt of my shoes; water mixes with my blood, an unwavering pressure gradient, like biting into a tomato, the red hot liquid surges to the top, capsizing over my beige, flat and spreads like thick paint dripping red into my the sole of my shoe. The hot, stickiness serves as a guard against the twinges of pain that raise up my calf. I press on.

My first task: Stack chairs; move them to storage. Easy enough. Or it would have been if I hadn’t worn new shoes. Blisters form like flea bites on a dog’s underbelly. With each step, the friction cuts deeper into my skin and yet, I don’t mind.

It is easier to do hard work. Laborious work.  To feel the energy enter my left and surge through my right. A rhythm. A pattern,

Work is easier than talking.

Pierre, a homely man, no older than forty, possesses a smile that is genuine but lacking the melancholy usually present in the eyes of someone his age. If he experiences any emotions at all; he hides them well; tucked deep within his rather round head.

He carries himself with a child-like innocence. As if, he wakes every morning not realizing that there are wars, famines, droughts.

His attire is as if his mother arrived every morning to carefully button his pastel shirt, making sure they match his blue pants, the same pair every day, and finally, before saying goodbye, she pulls them up high so that when he walks, he is always reassured that they are there.

There is little work for me to do. Most tasks, Pierre does not ask for my help. When I do offer to help, he explains, with that same smile, that he can do it. He finishes each sentence with a fake giggle that might just be genuine.

He has a certain way of handling anything and well, everything. He smacks the papers hard against the table, each time in numerals of three. He counts. Then recounts. Then recounts. When asked a question, it is always, “oui, oui, oui” or “non, non, non.”  It is most peculiar to watch him simply existing. To look and to understand.

To look and to understand.

To see the bigger picture. That is how a painter thinks. A weaver weaves. To see what is ahead. To hold an image in your mind, keeping it there long enough to preserve the memory.

This is not how I think. I write one word at a time. Each sentence sends me hurtling towards the next. Each day at a time. This is how I live.

I am learning to be like the painter. The weaver.

To hold an image that is worth more than a word. A sentence. To see the final creation before it has even been created. To imagine and hold the memory, a piece of the story, in my hands.

I have little to go on except a moral compass and a few morsels of knowledge that have only left me hungry for me.

Yet, there is hope. There is always hope. That image, that story, it is always present. It is in the back of my mind like a distant friend reminding me that it is possible. I can succeed in learning this language.


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