It was Sunday and I was tired, restless
and unsettled in the bone hard pew.
Just then, I recognized her hair,
that tangled mess of brown she’d had
as a girl, now picked through with gray. It
had been twenty years since I’d seen her last,
but when she turned her face toward me I knew
that blink of blue, that ski-jump nose. Her name
was Ruby. Like menstrual blood, the bright bold
knoll of puberty, the knife-blood red of
childhood fresh gone. Gone suddenly,
not the whisper hush of change that happens
slowly, imperceptibly, like forgiveness.
I was fifteen when my father told me what
happened to Ruby and why she moved away.
He told me driving in the car, the way he told me
everything too difficult to face. I remembered
her father, his cigar-stained hands folded
over the steering wheel while he waited
at the bus stop in the blazing heat.
There were days we’d ignored her on the
playground because she was dirty or we were
tired of pretending she was our friend.
Would we have been kinder had we known
about her father’s rough betrayals?
Here in God’s house she offered me a sign
of peace, a small smile bending her lips. Taking
her warm hand in mine, I sought forgiveness for
my trespass, for not knowing what we’d done.
Her face, blank and pale, offered nothing.
She didn’t know me from Adam.