Wednesday, April 13, 2005

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"I told you so" is never the way to go, not even when it feels like it should get to be.

I saw her on my walk through Belltown tonight. The little girl was blonde, and her hair was so thin that her scalp shone through it, seashell pink. She had big green eyes and a Barbie in each hand, and I could tell from the cut of her cheekbones and the lines of her neck that someday the boys will be wild about her. Her shoes were shiny and yellow, and she was huddled up against a brick wall, crying.
I stopped. How could I not? From across the street she had already broken my heart, standing there so perfect and alone on the sidewalk. When I asked what was wrong, she sniffed with all of the power of her little nose and told me she was cold.
I dropped my bag on the pavement, fondue pot and fixings clattering too loudly inside it, and threw my coat around her shoulders. She sniffed again, softer this time, one big leftover tear shining in each eye. I asked what she was doing out there in the cold, and that was when she told me that she lived in this building, had dropped a Barbie outside on the way in, and her mommy had let her run back out and get it. She was supposed to buzz up to her apartment like a big girl, she said, but was not tall enough to reach the buttons on the call box.
A sob shook her all the way through at this point, and she launched herself at me for a hug. When I cuddled her to me, I could feel her whole body shaking from the cold, her little bird bones clattering against each other. I hugged her close and we took a few deep breaths together, and she held my hand while I pressed the buttons for her apartment. I watched outside until she got into the elevator, where she turned and waved and then disappeared.

I've been trying not to think of what may have happened to her if I had not happened along, but the thoughts creep in and they hurt my soul. I hate to think that something that wonderful and pure will be stained someday. I hope that she went upstairs and had hot chocolate and a warm bath, and I hope that by tomorrow she will have forgotten being trapped outside in the cold.
I hope that she doesn't mind that I took a little of her light with me, caught in the fibers of my jacket and the backs of my eyes.

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