Zora Neale Hurston,
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Canon’s Prologue - At 20 Years Old
It’s the magic hour.
Gold dust smatters the horizon, gilding the fine line dividing earth and sky, bathing the shore in light and shimmer.
“It never gets old,” my mother whispers, the awe in her eyes as new as the unfolding sunset.
After a thousand sunsets from a thousand rickety piers, she, a veteran photographer, still holds onto wonder for this view.
A brisk breeze slips beneath my unzipped windbreaker.
“It is beautiful, but we should probably go inside. It’s getting cool out here.”
“It’s not cool out here.” Mama’s eyes, alive in her weary face, snap to meet mine. “Don’t treat me like an invalid, Canon.”
“I’m not. I . . . I’m not.” I study the wheelchair she spends most of her days in now, the camera in her lap, cradled lovingly in unsteady hands. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
The irritation eases from her expression a little, but her lips remain set. “Ever really consider that word? Invalid? In-valid. Because someone can’t walk or get around easily, we invalidate them? We don’t see them, don’t respect their wishes?”
“Ma, I didn’t mean to do that. We been out here for a while. It’s been a long day and I just want it to end well.”
The camera, when she lifts it to her eyes and aims it at the sun, shakes in her tenuous hold until her tightening grip steadies it. “Every day that ends with me still breathing has ended well.”
Her words grind into my heart and I draw a sharp breath through my nose, never prepared for the idea that my mother won’t always be around. May not be around much longer.
“Don’t talk like that, Ma.” I shift my feet, feeling as unsteady as the waves lapping at the legs of the pier.
She tears her eyes away from the camera, from the burnished horizon, to cast me a shrewd glance and scoffs. “Boy, we all gonna die. Question is, how did you live? Did you live or just wait for death to come? Not me. I ain’t waiting for nothing.”
She turns back to the sunset. “Except this. I’ll wait for the magic hour every time. It’s waiting for a miracle, but knowing it’ll come through. Like clockwork, it’ll come through. A miracle you can count on.”
I don’t have the heart to tell her I’ve given up on miracles. She’d only say I’m too young to abandon faith and hope and the luxury of naiveté, but the disease ravaging my mother’s body has accelerated her aging and mine.
“Where’s your camera?” she asks, her sudden question finding me over the sound of sloshing waves.
I slide the backpack from my shoulders and pull out my handheld video camera. I know what she wants. More and more she’s been documenting this journey of hers. Of ours. While it hurts to hear some of the things she tells the camera, things she doesn’t say to me, I never stop her. I’m always ready to capture every word, every glance from the remarkable woman who raised me.
“You are my boy for sure. Couldn’t ever find me without my camera either.” She peers over the camera, up at me. “It’s the love of my life, but as much as you love your art, Canon, I want you to find someone you can love more.”
I laugh and taste salty air. “You didn’t, but you want me to?”
A sad smile sketches fine-line parentheses around her mouth. “We always want more for our children than we had.”
I won’t tell her that me loving someone more than my art would take a miracle. Life has stolen enough of my mother’s illusions. I can’t bring myself to take more.
I turn the camera on. I turn it on her.
“Oh good. It’s on?” She lowers her camera and squints into mine, resolve as bright in her eyes as the sinking sun setting the ocean on fire. “’Cause I got something to say.”
Neevah’s Prologue – At 18 Years Old
I should have known this day would suck.
At breakfast, I knocked over the salt. Late for school, I paused long enough to scoop up a handful and toss it over my shoulder to counter the bad luck, but the damage had already been done.
First period, Mr. Kaminsky called on me just when I realized I’d left my AP English assignment at home. At lunch, I dropped my tray, spilling chocolate milk, mashed potatoes and my fruit cup all over the cafeteria floor. And the worst part of this day? I dropped a line in rehearsal for the final school play, Our Town. I had that monologue down. How did I forget?
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