There is a little girl, skipping down the stone streets, her hair braided into two, wearing a nicely ironed sundress, a pair of white shoes at her feet; a spotted red handkerchief tied on her wrist like always, a string bead necklace and three dollar bills in her right hand. The walls are painted in red and pink and green and blue, some rooftops are purple. Shops line up down the street, waiting for her choice. She enters the candy shop down the block and comes out with her arms full. Realizing that she is not clad in her usual mud-stained overalls (because her mother told her to look nice for once in town), her pockets are absent so she searches for another solution to replace her pockets. This is when she unties the handkerchief from her wrist and spreads it out on the stone steps before the candy shop to place all the jewel-colored candy pieces in the center of the red cloth and tie it up at the top. She now has herself a pouch of candy. She bites into her first gumdrop, the flavors bursting in every corner of her tongue. She continues her journey, munching on the treats down the street, as far as her skinny legs could carry her.
Now the walls are all the same color: gray, and the roofs are all brown and muddy. The pipes that run down the sides of the walls are dripping furiously with inky water. By now, the little girl is almost done with her sack of candy. Only three more left, she thinks, Why are candy pieces so small but carrots so large? Then she thinks. Why does my mother enjoy staying at that widow support group so much when she could eat candy with me? There are only two left now. Then one. I shall save this for mama. I’m sure she will enjoy it. The little girl doesn’t know where she’s going, but she’s going somewhere for sure.
Suddenly, she hears something. She turns to her right. There is an old man sitting on the muddy road, leaning against a gray wall with tattered clothes no cleaner than his face. He buries his large droopy head into his skinny long fingers, letting his tears drip down his face and into his shirt.
“Are you alright?” The little girl asks, approaching him. She fingers the candy wondering whether to eat it or not.
“No—” His lower lip trembled. “Go away, little girl. Everything is alright for you. You wouldn’t understand what is not alright for me.”
The girl reaches her hand out. “Do you want a piece of candy?”
The man lifts his head to see the bright yellow candy in the little girl’s hand but shakes his head and continues to blow his nose into his shirt collar.
“What’s wrong?” The little girl asks. “If my mother allows it, she might let me buy some more candy. I can share at most ten pieces if you’re nice.”
“I don’t want candy, you little girl!” The man cries, his face still in his shirt. “My little boy has died from pneumonia! Would a piece of candy make me feel better? You wealthy spoiled—no good children do not know what it’s like—to live in a hovel all your life—to see your only boy pass away before you—to be offered a piece of candy like nothing ever happened.”
“I am sorry—”
“Leave me alone.” He blows his nose again, the snot running down the insides of the filthy top.
The girl rummages to find something.
“Here you go.” The little girl holds out, not the candy, but the handkerchief. “You can have it.”
The man peers at the girl but gratefully takes the cloth out of her hand and wipes his tears. And before he can say anything else, the little girl is gone.
She is up on the streets where the walls are so colorful and the shops are overflowing with treats and goodies. Her wrist feels so empty without the handkerchief. For almost three years, except when she was washing, she had never taken it off. Three years ago, her nose was buried in that little polka dot handkerchief. Three years ago, she stood at the far edge of town where the ivy and the grass go tall. Three years ago, her father died. And she had used that piece of cloth to dry her tears.
But now, it felt nice. Giving the handkerchief away did not seem like a sin, it did not seem like she was losing her father again, and it definitely did not seem like she was trying to shake away the memories.
It felt like she had found something new.