“Excuse me,” a teenage girl said, as she approached me on the promenade at Morph Beach. She nestled a young potted plant against her chest in a way that made her elbow jut out fiercely like a white, razor sharp rock emerging from a mysterious cliff face.
I stopped strolling and gazed at her.
“Can you show me how to get to—“ She bent down and pulled a folded, wrinkly piece of paper out of her shoe. “—Pellucid Lane?”
“I’m hoping to find that one myself,” I said. “You can tag along.”
The flowerless plant’s narrow leaves were folded inward and they brushed gently against her dress as we walked. She smiled tensely.
“I'm Lorraine Herdsman,” I said.
She looked down at her feet. “I’m Cadence. Cadence Linnaeus.”
“Tell me about that plant,” I said.
“It’s called a mimosa pudica,” she said, “My father gave it to me. I don’t know why I carry it around. I just do.”
My curiosity was piqued. “Don’t you get tired of carrying it?”
“Maybe.” Her legs buckled, then, and she crumpled to the ground as if merely suggesting weariness could make it so. Then she began to cry, still holding her droopy plant. I sat down beside her as people veered around us.
“You’re a beautiful person,” I said.
She sniffed and offered a half smile. “You don’t even know me.”
“No, but I see you and I’m listening to you and it’s true that you are beautiful.”
“Alright,” she said. Her tears slowed and she lifted the plant closer to her eyes. The leaves had spread open and I observed her as she examined its sparse, mean-looking prickles.
Then I noticed my friend, Sidney, walking towards us from the beach carrying his briefcase. He always carried his briefcase. When we made eye contact he lifted his hat in salute. Cadence didn’t notice.
“You know,” she said, after a moment of silence. “There’s something about waiting that’s easier than actually—“
“Hello! Hello!” Sidney interrupted. He was only a few feet away now. “English! I like English! Yes! But German? No, no, no.”
I laughed and stood up.
Just then he dropped his briefcase and it popped open. The wind blew his papers all over the place, all at once. Several of them blew into Cadence, who slowly gathered them into a pile with one hand and held them. The mimosa pudica folded inward again.
I pointed. “Now look, the leaves are—“
“I love making friends!” Sidney exclaimed and lifted his hat in salute.
Cadence was gobsmacked. “Are you talking to—“
“I’ve much to offer you about rowing and dignity, misunderstandings, fences and faces. Not to mention Kim’s fabric and all the—Hey now! Why haven’t you interrupted me yet? You’re as bad as my wife!”
Cadence looked up at him with a weary sort of look.
I laughed. Then I pointed to his briefcase. “Your papers—“
“As my friend, Bart, likes to say… Patience! And Passion!”
Cadence stood up rather weakly and said, “Um.. yeah, passion. Alright. I want someone to take this plant away from me. But my father’s will—“
“It’s okay!” said Sidney. “Everything’s okay!”
“Opinions, opinions,” I said. “The world is full of opinions.”
Cadence began to walk. “I would like to have an opinion. A truthful one. Where was it I wanted to go again? Oh yeah, Pellucid Lane.”