Boston Impressions – a journey into a different art form

Butter Sky written by Sarah Melis

The air is clear and filled with orange particles. Everywhere I look I see an explosion of form and light, but I’m no photographer. I take mental pictures, I breath in this picturesque autumn panorama and stumble over a girl kneeling on the street. She kneels on her sign, that is big enough to shield her from the cold emitting from the pavement. Even big enough to tell her story. I only read: ‘Human Kindness. Anything helps.’ I walk, I look back, I feel zoomed in by a cameras eye. It looks at me with a question between its brows. I walk. I look back. I walk back.

‘What does that mean?’ is all I manage to say.


‘What does it mean, “Anything helps.” What happened to you?’

She looks at me and my picture of the student that underestimated the cost of getting education faded as I smell a mixture of alcohol, sweat and time on her. The picture changed, as I see her hair that is oiled by time. Like a sudden wave in the ocean, time washed over her. She didn’t have the chance to dive through and time tangled with her like rough seaweed or a limpet that grabs onto you. Pulls you down. The wave gives you that stench.

Her father is an alcoholic and abusive. I feel like I read that somewhere before. She managed to get into a program that helped her find her own place. She will leave her shelter home in a few weeks and then she starts working across the street, where she is kneeling, at the cheese factory. I wonder why she is kneeling, is that important? Do I need to look down, to feel compelled to give? She smiles at me ‘ Thank you for asking!’ I think she means it and I hope that human contact is as valuable as money.

Down the street, I walk and see a man in a wheelchair with the same sign, smaller, like a thumbprint of the girl’s sign. He smiles too. As I smile back I see the picture I took yesterday in my mind’s eye:
A red tree, leaning against a hazy grey background. Today, when I walked past that tree, it was nearly leafless and appeared empty spirited. Mocked by a cloudless scenery. That is exactly how I feel while passing a man with two missing legs and a sign reading ‘ homeless veteran; please help.’ The last leaf on my red tree falls. I look down and count the times I see my sneakers make no sound on the concrete. Until I hear a female voice, loud and frantic. I glance around a corner and see a woman talking to herself. Wearing layers of clothing and sitting on a plastic bag filled with her belongings.

I would talk to myself too. She is standing at eye level. At least, I think. Behind her, the clouds are turned red by the sun and look like auroral butter smeared over a blue sky.
I have a warm bed and WhatsApp; still, I feel isolated. But I can go to a heated bookstore around the corner and help myself in the psychology section. Everyone knows how to heal a bruised soul. They all got one, some battered, some shattered but they discerned the light. It is my decision in whose words I want to read about the epiphany they share. They have been there! I decided not to buy a book. I smelled five, got angry and left.
When I’m lucky later today, I will have the chance of a human encounter, maybe even a handshake or a pad on the shoulder. No, I don’t want to hug this woman. I do want to take her solitude, yes. If I give her a dollar, a good deed is done? I look at the blue toast with butter sky.

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