Room For One More
It was about that time of day when not quite all of the cars have remembered
to turn on their headlights. I sat down on the bench at the bus stop and
got out my bus card so I would be ready when the bus came by. I wouldn't
have to waste any time and the bus wouldn't leave without me while I tried
to find it. I sat down on the bench and my soul stretched out on the grass
in the sun underneath a tree. It liked to rest like that, there at the bus
stop, and let the rest of the tangled city pass by.
And there was the city, running and scrambling all around me, making sure
not to get on the wrong bus or hold the wrong person's hand or lose a hat to
the wind. People going to and from dinner, not waiting for the crosswalk
man to change color, going home to hug or scold or feed dogs and cats and
The last of the cars remembered its headlights and the stars started making
their way to the front of the sky. I picked up four of five of them and
thought about them for a moment. I put them in my hair, and as the rest of
the city pulled its scarf tighter around its neck, I gathered up my soul and
climbed onto the bus, taking care not to shake loose the jewels of the
A Childhood Dream Crept Up On Me In Seat 28B
Snacktime on the 737 meant bananas and yogurt. Those foods got together
with the low air pressure and seduced people to close their eyelids. I
leaned my head back against the headrest and wished for the window seat and
thought about all those nonsensical things that fill my head right before I
drop off. Like sledding through outer space with an ice cream cone.
The twelve-year-old boy sitting in the window seat chose this time to take
drumsticks out of his backpack and practice in time to the music on his
headphones. He wasn't banging too loudly, just loudly enough. I opened my
eyes. "You play the drums?" I asked him. "I'm learning," he said and
smiled. I closed my eyes again. "I love travelling as an unaccompanied
minor," he told me. I guessed it was like having a really permissive
baby-sitter, except the baby-sitter got to sit next to you while you
practiced the drums.
Fig. 1 This representation of pike parvalbumin was created using the
software package Ribbons and atomic coordinates published by Declerq, et al.
While completely unrelated to the story in any way, it nonetheless bears a
striking resemblance to Cookie Monster
I pretended to sleep until he put away the drumsticks and then I really went
to sleep. I slept until the plane began to descend and then I woke up. The
twelve-year-old boy had taken origami paper out of his backpack and was busy
folding one of those chinese death stars, the kind that starts out as an
octagon and you squish it together to make an eight-pointed star to flick at
When I was a kid, some of the boys in my class made those all the time, but
I was always too shy to ask them how they did it. In junior high, my great
aunt sent me a recipe for folding Christmas tree stars. They start out as
long skinny paper and end up all three-dimensional and covered with glitter
and ready to put on the tree. I like to think the whole thing is some sort
of family secret, passed down from German antiquity, but the pattern came
out of an old magazine, so it's probably more of a tradition.
When I went to Baltimore back in 1997, I saw a whole origami book dedicated
to star-folding. I was sure this was the answer to all my paper star
issues. I lingered over it. I tried to look through it and memorize its
secrets. I almost bought it, but my friends made me leave the store while I
was still wrestling with it. Star-folding has been the great elusive memory
of my childhood.
Still groggy, I watched the twelve-year-old boy fold the star and put it
together. I wanted to ask him to show me how to do it, but the old-time
shyness about asking the trade secrets of junior high boys crept back.
Besides, the plane would soon land and I would have to leave before I
learned how to do it. I waited. I watched him. I remembered the
star-folding book I never bought. "You know," I said, "I've wanted to know
how to do that ever since I was a kid. "It's so easy," he said, and told me
stories about how all his friends and he made them all the time and wrote
notes on the inside and threw them into other people's lockers just as they
were about to shut. "I can show you," and he did. And a piece of my
childhood exulted as the plane touched down.