The Wink

Raghu Rai for Magnum, from Raghu Rai's India: Reflections in Black and White (2007).

What if my only purpose was to wink at that baby? Everything in my life so far leading up to it, preparing me intensely for its delivery. Learning the subtle art of that fine ocular gesture, for instance, from my friend Grace Baldovino's mother, in the aisles of St. Ignatius Church on 84th Street. The motorbike itself an art learned just weeks before. Most substantially -- the assurance and compassion needed to open and close the lid in the effective way learned over the course of 24 years, wrought with passion, the care of two devoted parents and a nation of cousins, applesauce on my meat, a nomadic path around the world -- all this! All for the purpose of bringing me here, to this very highway on the southeast coast of India, where I pull up beside a female baby, 19 seconds left on the traffic light, 20 minutes from a sleeper bus I'm meant to catch into the mountains.

The two of us paused up against each other on the Nellai Highway, men around us, our exchange invisible, their motors guzzling to a salvational stop -- this baby with her big ears and black bindi, whose mother just shooed her hands out of her little toothless mouth. She is the look of destiny! A moment right here is what I was meant to do -- no book! no chimpanzee massage parlor! no bed and breakfast! no husband! no devoted trailer!

I'm sent to the light, brought down again in new form, I repair from an unbearable transition into a mist field...

The little act registering some positive neuron in the baby which causes her -- years later -- to rescue a dog from the gutter. Would we say that is too little for a whole life to lead to?

I greet it as my end! And all that preceded it prepared me.


Marguerite Imbert

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