It was early in the morning, the very first time. Mumu had gotten up early to take her paper and glass to the recycle center on the other side of the river. That was the first time she saw him. He was walking towards her looking down, the morning sun glinting off his shaved, shiny head. In his arms were huge bundles of lilies and sunflowers that nearly obscured his torso. It seemed as if he were nothing more than a walking flower stand with a small baldhead on top.
Her mother had given her the nickname Mumu shortly after she had been born. In the early seventies the trend in Tokyo had been to name your children after places and things that symbolized strength and power but Amaterasu, her real name, had seemed a bit too much after her birth in which she had almost died. Now in her thirties, everyone where she lived knew her only as Mumu which suited her just fine.
After that first day she began to notice him regularly. He worked at the flower stand by the river around the corner from her tiny apartment. She would see him scurrying about like a nervous little terrier between the stand and the basement where the flowers were stored and kept cool. There was something different about him; she could see it in his movements, in his face. There seemed to be a lack of awareness in his expression for the things that motivated and concerned most people she knew. She imagined he was slightly impaired, mentally at least. What his expression lacked however, was made up for by a childish innocence in his eyes. Sometimes, Mumu secretly liked to believe, the gods give a sort of amplified sensitivity to those who lack what it takes to be deemed by society as successful. It was as if through grace they were allowed to remain children while the rest of us are forced to grow up, forced to lose our innocence in a world where productivity and competition reign.
Although they never spoke she began to develop a deep respect and admiration for him and his humble place in the world. She'd read an article recently about the genetics of flowers and how some flowers, often those with the most brilliant and unusual colors, had developed by accident from an element of their genetic structure that had broken down and was now missing. It was what was missing that interested her the most because Mumu had just about everything now except someone to love, and in the western world, the world which she now chose to live in, it was not what you had but what was missing that mattered. She thought of this 'missing element' as she would glimpse the beautiful bald man in and around her neighborhood.
Mumu worked in the University Hospital on a team that researched possible vaccines for children against the AIDS virus. She had studied research biology first in Tokyo at age 14 and later at Hopkins, where she'd been invited to join the graduate studies department when she was only 17. A child prodigy, they called her, a young genius with the innate ability to see through hundreds of thousands of pages of data and draw some solid conclusions that her colleagues had been 'missing' for years.
What Mumu missed the most was childhood, her childhood, which had been spent studying and sitting behind the computer often ten or twelve hours a day. She found herself longing for the childlike innocence she recognized in the face of the flower man. Somewhere - in the mountains of research data that filled her mind, in the midnight hours lost in the digital search for answers, in the faces of the young unwitting victims of the horrible disease for which she frantically sought a cure - she had lost that innocence and the time in her life which should have been, could have been spent on silly careless meanderings. The way the flowers in her mother's garden would sway carelessly in the spring breeze.
It was almost six. The flower stand would be closing soon. Mumu got up from her desk and walked anxiously to the window facing the river on the west side of the city. Was it fair that she tried to capture this missing element from her past in her fleeting glimpses of the flower man? The passage she'd read about the brilliance in the color of the flowers that had been genetically stunted ran through her mind as he rounded the corner, the brilliant colors of the setting sun reflecting off his cleanly shaven head.
Mumu smiled sweetly to herself as he disappeared in the bustle of the city street.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Bill Piccolo.
Published on e-Stories.org on 13.01.2005.