Fifteen years. Do I really remember this, or does this remember me?
The Mad Artist
Yesterday I was waiting at a light when a mad artist quickly sketched a little girl in front of me in the crosswalk. The girl looked up and gave me the prettiest, craziest smile — a smile of freedom and recognition. I replied with a silly grin. This made her eyes shine, even brighter than before.
She was six or seven years old. Her light-brown hair was neither wavy nor straight, and fell naturally upon her shoulders. She was carrying a book, holding it in front of her with two hands. When she reached the sidewalk, she glanced over her shoulder to see if I was watching, then continued on.
As I made my turn, I saw her walking bravely up the sidewalk alongside traffic. It was easy to tell she was used to being alone. I think she had already learned to prefer it. I wondered briefly if she were going home to an empty house, but there was no way of knowing, so I let the idea go. Besides, a house can be empty even when people are at home.
Every day, we talk about wars. We talk about the crimes that are committed, and the punishment that results. We talk about poverty and despair. We talk about religion, entertainment, and the weather. Or we ignore them. Now there is a possibility that an influenza virus being carried around the world by migrating birds might undergo a change that will allow it to spread easily among humans. If this change occurs, the virus could kill millions. It could kill me. It could kill that beautiful little girl.
The virus could kill the very same people we are already trying to kill in our foolish wars. Imagine how disappointed the evil governments and arms dealers will be if there is no one left to kill. Imagine how angry the corporations will be if there is no one left to do their dirty work, and to buy their useless products.
Imagine a day when the streets are empty, and the little girl I saw is but a faint glimmer in the crosswalk. Mad artist, what will you do then? Paint us another world? Show us yet another open door?
Songs and Letters, October 21, 2005
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