Tea With The Queen

January 22, 2012
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A sleepless purple night spent running barefoot in the dirt with a child in one arm and a crucifix in the other surged through their throbbing veins. Ailing peasants weeping for a handful of rice oozed out of the pores on their sagging, worry-creased faces. When they occasionally laughed, their eyes, unblinking and crystalline, rolled into their heads to catch a glimpse of the golden sunrise that broke the farmer’s back. When they cried, as they often did, they passed penniless, emaciated generations through the whites of their eyes. They were the lucky ones.
To some, they were nothing more than a single breath of air, fragile and insignificant. To others, they were heroes, a beacon of hope, a reason to keep going. In my young eyes, they were ghosts –colorless, eerie presences of Vaseline, nylons and artificial teeth. Each day, one (or sometimes two or three) of them would disrupt the tranquility of my grandmother’s parlor to satisfy any remaining emptiness from over the drowned, choked years. They seemed to live off of nothing but the misfortunes of others and sugarless tea.
“The queen will be out in a minute.” I would force myself to mumble. And, as if on cue, the sweet elderly lady who raised me by day, Her Majesty, would bring out the tray, filling the palace with the soft, sweet music of giggling glass. She seemed to levitate across the floor, as rays of autumn sunshine begged to kiss her on the wrinkled yet rosy cheek. It’s hard to believe that she and they once fought the same battle. But she does not wake up every day to long, humid mornings to be spent amongst homogenous rows of grain. She does not leave a desperate trail of footprints in the dirt every night. Instead, she dreams in Technicolor, flashing lights and silk sheets. Unlike them, she keeps her fingers crossed.
“How do you do?” Her Majesty inquired politely in her mother tongue, bending gracefully to fill her visitor’s cup. This was my signal to blend in with the wall.
I heard the guest whisper an unintelligible answer and gulp down cups of liquid gold, which I could see traveling through her transparent body. I could have stuck my tiny hand through her, but I dared not, for fear of breaking the delicate soul.
After the two spent an hour sipping tea and sitting in judgment of what has become of neighbors and old friends, my mind wandered to the guest. What became of her after she left our palace each afternoon? Would she disappear into the chit-chat and chimney smoke of everyday life? Or did she secretly turn into a jewel-clad, classic beauty the minute she sets foot in her door? Maybe there was a child waiting to sanctify her torn, tear-stained aura with its imagination.
Maybe I could figure out what goes on in their lives if I could just have the strength to tear myself apart from the plaster and paintings that kept the palace together.
If I could just break free.

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