Tick tock. Time goes by.
The neon green catches my eye, and I stop walking to peer down at the beaded lizard. I take it in my hand, turn the beads to face the right way. Standing in the centre of a crowded sidewalk, hair dripping, makeup running in the rain, one thought runs round and round my head.
Who does it belong to?
Was this little green lizard made at a summer camp by a kid with red hair and green eyes and freckles all over his face? Did he give it to his mom when he came home and start telling her about all the things he’d done and all the friends he’d made? Did she listen? Did she appreciate the high and low notes of his voice and cherish the innocence present in his thoughts? Or was it another one of those “that’s nice, sweetie” things that parents say to little kids when they have something ‘more important’ on their minds.
Was it made by a little girl with black braids? Did she tie it to her big sister’s backpack? Did her wide-eyed big sister love it? Did they hug? Are they close? Do they stay up late in the blanket fort they make together every night, telling sad stories and happy stories, but never their own stories. Never their own stories because that one’s just too real. Real like the near-constant pain of hunger they both try to ignore, because they know it’s still hours before the food kitchen opens.
Does it belong to the dad who only gets to see his son on weekends?
Or the grandma who’s slowly forgetting the names of her kids?
Does it belong to a woman who, once upon a time, used to be a twin?
People brush my shoulder as they hurry on by and I know I should move, know I have places to be and people to see, but I can’t. It suddenly seems small, our world of seven and a half billion people. Everyone leading their own complex lives with their own complex feelings and complicated situations.
And yes, there are those people who get up every morning and go for a run, their dog at their side and their sisters on speed-dial. The people who get to have lunch on Sundays with their parents, the people who sleep easy at night. There are kids who do well in school, and kids who don’t. Old men whose wrinkles are laugh lines and grandmothers who go to Pilates every week because that’s what they love doing.
I am struck with the infinite amount of stories I have yet to hear from people I’ve never met, and people I never will. I’m struck with my own inability to comprehend that even the smallest beaded lizard changes lives. And what will the owner of this one do once they realise it’s gone missing?
Maybe they won’t realise. But that little boy with freckles and copper hair will. He’ll notice and the fact that his mom didn’t will hurt. But he’ll make her another one, just like it, and place it back where she had it on her keys so that she never notices the difference.
Maybe it’ll only be missed when the girls are packing up to move into another group home, and maybe it’ll hurt twice as much because the older one is graduating and it’s the most important memory of her sister she’d have had to take with her to wherever she got her scholarship to.
At any rate, it’s mine now, and one day I’ll lose it, and someone will find it. And they’ll think about who owned it before. They’ll wonder if a short teenager with constantly changing hair colour and constantly changing taste in music found it one day when she was out in the rain on a crowded street. They’ll wonder why she was looking down in the first place, instead of up like the rest of the world. They’ll assume my story, and most likely get me all wrong but it’ll open their eyes to the sheer number of souls we share this planet with. It’ll be a lesson, and the lesson will be this; everyone has their own story.
Tick tock. Time goes by.
What will your story be?