The man on the corner does come back. I’ve graduated from high school and I’m going to the state university. I almost run into him. This time he says other things. He’s been to his gods and uncovered new pieces of his message to give freely and happily to the passersby at the corner of Dauphin and Royal. I walk past him, but he pleads softly, “Miss, miss…” I turn around.
“Yes, I know. They stole the fire from the sun,” I tell him, smiling indulgently.
“But no one noticed the change in days,” he moans softly. Something in his voice, his complete and helpless anguish paralyzes me. I want to move away, but I can’t. My eyes sting like I’m going to cry and I’m unable to hold my smile.
“Why?” I ask softly, breathlessly.
“Because nobody missed the night,” he replies in a rich whisper. Breath rushes back into my grateful lungs. He nods solemnly and sighs and his cloying sweet breath covers my face, reminding me again of plums. “That seems the greatest travesty,” he says, more lucidly than I’ve ever seen him. I walk away, chilled in spite of the warm spring humidity.
That night was the last time I ever see him. The crazy man no longer returns to his corner. He’s dead now, we know. No one has to tell us. We just know it.
I marry a soft-eyed black man who doesn’t talk much, but when he does he speaks in a clear staccato and his words make perfect sense. He’s an artist, a painter with bruised-plum skin and a dark, pitted face. Rhiannon doesn’t speak to me anymore.