Aurora. She wrote it down on a piece of paper and showed it to me. That was her name. I didn’t know if she had a case of laryngitis or something more serious.
We sat on a bench in the park. My daughter was playing in the sandbox. I said, “Hi, I’m Connie.” That’s when she took a pen and a small pad of paper from her purse. Her hands shook. I pointed to my daughter and said, “That’s my daughter, Anna. Are you here with someone?” She shook her head, no. She wrote ‘Aurora’ and handed me the small square of paper.
She looked vaguely middle-aged, a bit too young to be a grandmother, perhaps too old to have a toddler. It’s difficult to pinpoint a stranger’s age. Aurora wrote again.
She struggled to keep the pen from shaking. She held up her tablet and showed it to me. ‘I had a daughter—gone now.’
Anna ran up to me. She smiled at Aurora. Aurora smiled back. “Time to go mommy?” she asked. That meant she was ready to leave. I looked at my watch. It was almost lunchtime and, indeed, time to go home. I helped my daughter gather up her toys. When I turned to say goodbye to Aurora, she was gone.
As Anna napped that afternoon, I sat down with a cup of tea and a magazine. There was an article on perennial gardens, which is why I had bought the magazine. I couldn’t concentrate. Instead, I fantasized explanations for Aurora’s muteness. She could be a cancer survivor—maybe of the throat or larynx. But I hadn’t noticed any incisions.
She might have Parkinson’s disease. That would explain the tremors. Maybe it was a religious practice: a vow of silence. Or atonement for some past indiscretion. She had written that her daughter was ‘gone now.’ That had to be significant.
I couldn’t stop thinking about her, even as I prepared our evening meal. A person who doesn’t speak is a rarity. And yet despite her silence, Aurora had managed to communicate peaceful melancholy and sense of purpose. I knew for sure that she was a good soul. Anna had smiled at her. Normally, my Anna is quite shy.
I walked into Starbucks with Anna in her stroller. I looked around for my friend, Carol. We meet for coffee at least once a week. The only thing we have in common is that we live within walking distance of Starbucks and we are both stay-at-home moms with three-year-olds. I had almost cancelled our coffee date. All we talked about any more were the miseries of mutual acquaintances.
Carol always ran late so I scanned the room to find us a table. That’s when I saw Aurora. She sat in the corner, alone. She looked right at me so I waved. I set my jacket on a chair and went to the counter to order a non-fat latté. There was still no sign of Carol so I pushed the stroller over to where Aurora sat. She motioned for me to sit down. “Just for a minute,” I said. “I’m meeting someone.” Aurora made faces for Anna. Anna giggled. Finally all three of us sat in contented silence; Aurora rested her hand gently on Anna’s small arm.
Carol made a ruckus, rushing in the door backwards, pulling on her daughter’s stroller. “Sorry I’m late,” she said. “I was on the phone with Amy. You won’t believe who’s getting a divorce—and why. Let me order something. Then we’ll talk.”
I turned back to Aurora. She frowned and looked down. I felt bad. Carol’s arrival had ruined our peaceful interlude. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have introduced you.”
Aurora shook her head ‘no.’ She smiled sadly then looked down to write something on her small tablet. With trembling hands she tore it off and handed it to me:
‘Gossip and rumors have the power to hurt. Be mindful.’ She stood up and walked to the door. At the last minute, she looked back at Anna and me. She smiled and gave us the peace sign.
I haven’t seen Aurora since that day. I still don’t know whether her silence was a choice or an infirmity. I have a big imagination so I’ve come up with a few ideas. Someone close to her was destroyed by gossip. Maybe her daughter committed suicide because of some untrue rumors. Maybe cruel words led to an estrangement.
I am absolutely convinced that Aurora was a messenger. It’s more than just my intuition. Ever since that day in Starbucks, I have a queasy feeling about gossip. I avoid it. Carol and I never meet for coffee anymore. I met another stay-at-home mom with a three-year old daughter and a high school aged son. So she has experience. But she doesn’t flaunt it. She is definitely a live and let live sort of woman. Sometimes we just sit together at the park and watch our daughters negotiate sandbox issues. It’s lovely.
I recently read a quote from the Tao: Great sound is silent. I take that teaching to heart. Because a silent messenger taught me something important. She led the way.
words: M. Kathleen Walworth, Ohio
original publication: Silent Messenger / Haruah
image: Peter Schwartz, Maine (Sitrah Ahra)
original publication: Zoo (Ransom Version) / Wheelhouse Magazine
a forgotten message: Nostrum (#21)