She was a Girl with Purple Hair
The courting instinct opens its wings like a butterfly long before being pinned to the padded collection paper and covered in cellophane.
This juvenile science project, whose voice comes from a confusing world, meets the veined wings, translucent like a new leaf, awkwardly bumping into pistils on their way to the dew-licked petals.
The racing net follows slow and haphazard attractions where the swallowtail or the monarch or maybe just the moth introduces the flower to the secrets of its own openings and refusals.
In the background the yellow jacket’s helix changes its mind like an off-kilter equation.
I pulled my SUV into the shopping-center driveway and parked in front of the café extending my driver-side tires onto a strip of sidewalk so I had separation from the car parked next to me. I checked on the dog in the back and he was comfortable in his bedding with his rawhide chew toys.
As I walked towards the coffee shop I noticed the dents in the body of my vehicle. Those were defects in the distracted sides of my psyche; careless brush-ups against poles in tight parking structures. The passenger side brake light plastic covering was fractured by an aberrant grocery cart let loose in a supermarket parking lot. Someone let it roll of its own volition and I found it kissing the rear of my truck one day as I walked back with bags of food. I just smiled and walked the cart over to the receptacle and crashed it into the others. These things used to bother me when I felt I needed to be on top of my game at all times. Now they were reminders. I refused to fix them.
I walked into the café and scanned the four possible private two-seat tables in the back and found one unoccupied. I dropped my coat and satchel and studied the counter. There was a line of four customers and three young women worked taking orders and preparing beverages.
She was there at the counter with her loose fitting green apron. I noticed how her close-kept face watched over the customers and the tasks of her co-workers. She was a girl with purple hair. A strip of tightly braided hair wound around the top of her head like a crown. I could feel the old legends in the ambient blues music running through her mind. She was not that young and I could see the vestiges of the myriad piercing she no longer displayed. There was a robust authenticity to her gestures that was fierce. I saw a locked-in confidence that had jousted with older brothers. If she possessed any shyness or significant inhibitions there was an invisible space under her bearing where they lived.
The braid that encircled the crown of her head sat back and her remaining neck-length purple locks curled in a charmingly frizzy way. Her forehead sloped back and her chin had a delicate jut with a central dimple. The skin of her face was oily and large pores on her nose could be seen at a distance.
She smiled easily and turned her head frequently as if to keep her anxiety about missing something in check. Over her sloped narrow shoulders a black, short sleeve hoodie sat and was zipped to a cleft below her chin created between the bulbous ends of her clavicles fastening to her sternum. Coffee created a full and engaging attachment to the moment for her and she moved elegantly on her thin short legs hugged by skinny jeans. Measuring five foot two she wore checkered vans with no socks and had no desire to be taller.
At first I was shocked by the loving connection I felt for the striking tattoo. It was elaborately depicted encircling her deltoid and bicep like a sleeve. The colors brought faint murmurings to a voice deep inside me within a cellar where my secret muses arranged the topsoil. I leaned into my mixed emotions while I surveyed this splash of ink on a beautiful woman. It was like I was seeing one of Banksy’s grand spectacles. I caught my half-breed judgments between flights. I thought about a naked climb up from my own repressed authenticity. I burned with a desire to touch and caress the ink that slept in her dermis. The firmament of her bearing projected a poetic announcement of an inner self that was real and fastidious. It was assembled compassionately by her eyes and took into account the parts that grew stronger after the storm pulled her apart.
She floated seamlessly between taking orders and preparing beverages. None of the other baristas did both. If she took an order and another girl served a sub-optimal product, prompting a complaint, she revised it herself with a buoyancy that congratulated the customer’s discerning ability to uncover subtle flaws. She owned the production of imperfection. She possessed the beauty of a certain resolve that borrows a look askance in a manner that pulls in just the right light.
I ordered a blonde roast and it was not piping hot out of the dispenser. I knew that with cream in it I would be disappointed. As I handed the cup back to her, she scolded the air around herself for believing coffee from that source would be suitable. There was a resin within her that brought out a shade in her cheeks reminding me of the comfort I felt while eating my grandmother’s pastina with butter.
She took my cup and placed it on a back counter where it could be ignored while she made haste with a fresh pour-over. She crossed her arm over her mouth blocking a gentle cough in a way that was almost seductive. I watched her delicate hands while she held the steel pitcher of boiling water with its long spout. She applied the steaming liquid to the fragrant grounds in the paper filter sitting inside the cone. She waived the metallic spout like she was watering a flower that needed nurturing more than water. Steam rose and I observed the brown liquid hugging the sides of the glass receptacle.
Voices collided throughout the café. Howlin’ Wolf’s gravely rantings floated over the tabletops lamenting a distant loss within the cold pines. A steady flow of customers entered and most left after receiving their orders.
The girl with the purple hair poured the deep roasted liquid into a fresh cup for me. I heard her yell:
“Fresh blonde pour-over.”
She handed me the hot coffee through chocolate brown eyes surrounded by her bold black frames. Those horn-rims hugged the contours of her definitive personality. The lenses of her glasses magnified her augmented lashes. Her unbroken eye contact and authentic smile told me she was one for stark contrasts. Passion lives in sustained glances and doesn’t noticeably display timid embarrassment. She held my gaze in a way that compelled me to wait until I could take a small piece of her with me.
I walked over and sat at the table where I had left my possessions. A window behind me projected out onto the front of my parked Escalade. A puckered dent in the front passenger bumper smiled at me and I laughed back at it. The gray Oregon sky stood like a painting outside.