In the bathroom of the Charlotte Douglas

International Airport, a woman is singing

a song:  What’s it all about, Alfie? Without

true love we just exist. Her voice floats over

the green doors of the stalls and we all

stop what we are doing—no one flushes.

And if only fools are kind, she croons.

I emerge to see her wiping the countertop.

She wears a black attendant uniform

and a wig with short straight hair,

a pixie cut. She is sixty-two, she tells me.

Sometimes she sings with her church choir

but mostly at home and at work. Years earlier

someone offered her a gig at the Apollo, but she

was too scared, and too skinny, she says,

afraid no one would see her up there

on that great stage where Dionne

and Diana had both performed. She likes

to sing here in the bathroom because it sounds

good, with the tiles, and people give her

compliments and sometimes a dollar or two

or ten, which is what I have so what I give

because, let’s face it, she could be anywhere,

back stage at the Kennedy Center or meeting

the Queen of England, with a voice like that,

so pure and full of shadow and light but instead

she is in the ladies’ room of the Charlotte airport,

and we are stopped, we are transformed, so that

we notice the shine on the metal hand dryers

blasting their pointless air and the sparkling

glow of the row of mirrors over the white sinks and

the sunlight streaming down onto Concourse E where

I find I want to touch the arm of the stranger in front of me

in line at the Dunkin’ Donuts, young and unsteady in her stiletto

heels and jeans, and embrace her, and tell her what I have witnessed.


©Michelle Blake                                                         May 7, 2014

printed with permission of the author