I was standing in line, reading an English newspaper (what luck...), and looked up to see a seven year old Maghrebin girl in a pleated white sleeveless tunic, shiny silver embroidery around the neck and sleeve openings, silver sandals on her feet, flash by, twirling and chasing her younger brother.
She looked up and our eyes met.
I looked down and offered : "tu es très belle dans ta robe blanche" (you are very beautiful in your white dress), and she looked up and answered... "toi aussi"...
When for an ephemeral instant the Kingdom of God shines through, or.. the Holy Grail, if you prefer, or any other divine that strikes your fancy, anonymous reader.
What did I see as she spun through the crowd ? Ah... the dance...
The white pleated tunic was of our time, probably polyester, not very expensive, something anybody could buy in Wal Mart or the equivalent all over the planet.
And she is of our time too...
But not just of our time.
Three days ago, I was in the British Museum, looking at the marble friezes of procession on Athena's temple on the Parthenon.
Among the ephemeral instants captured forever in stone are a few mostly faceless (now) imprints of white tunics on the bodies of the paideia (?), the young girls who move in spatial rhythms through the frieze, in counterpoint to the horsemen, charioteers, and men on foot.
Herself momentarily suspended, she is at once who she is, and... who she will be in just a few short years, a graceful young woman.
She commands all eyes.
Young men's eyes, old men's eyes, surreptiously greedy watching her like a ripe and unripe fruit. (When they are not too emasculated to allow themselves this pleasure...)
She holds them fast and captive with her promise. And her power.
It is NOT... an innocent promise, because there is no innocence.
She already knows and feels in her body who she is and who she will become.
She may not know that she knows. But she does.
The women watch her with more mixed sentiments, mostly.
Some supercilious. Some envious. Some indifferent. Some amused. Some nostalgic, and regretful. A few Arsinoes to Molière's Célimène.
And why did she say "toi aussi" to me ?
I, over 50, who was wearing old dirty jeans, with a tank top, with spurs that keep me from twirling these days ?
It wasn't a conventional backhand return of a compliment. Didn't sound like that, at least.
Was it my hat ?
Did she see in me some trace of who i was ? (but not at her age...)