The Absence of Innocence

She was young and spritely. Such is revealed at an age this decadent; Diane, with tasseled bangs and cheeks of a solid pink hue. She is glamorous under the rays of the sun, a lone girl standing in a field of countless dandelions. From the highest tree, if one should climb to that height, this field could be perceived as a green map stained by yellow specks. It is a vast, verdurous swath though it is sometimes shadowed by a sweeping cloud. Those are the moments when Diane digs into the realms of contemplation, and comprehends the unknown.

The sun peeks its face from behind, the beauty of its golden contrast, replacing the mass of gray. Diane revels in the delights of this waking morning, through every feeble gesture in her surroundings. Even now, there could not be a greater place for her fervent charms to be revealed. When she stoops low to pick a dandelion from the grass, she holds it in a little hand, and begins to examine it. After, she places it in her mane of auburn hair, when romance is already settling in.

Under pink lids, like an allergy to spring, her mourning of an unused love is temporarily relieved by a handful of scented blossoms. She smears the yellow color on her little white neck, desiring company at this mere age of twelve.

Such is the price of abandonment. In want, there are needless and inexplicable desires in children who cannot fathom its source. They comprehend their parents as their protectors, but do not comprehend the dangers in which they set themselves. If Mother Nature had a voice, besides the one we know, it might give us the answers we require. Understanding the origin of a child’s sorrow might only lead to an adult’s perception of frailty, once being that meager age themselves. They understand only through memories, but not through current society that has placed these concerns on a child. What matters of innocence are reflected in a child? It is ignorance, not innocence, that a child trades away, if it is before the wrath of conflict.

One morning, Diane finds that she has awoken in a field with that familiar scenery of yellow specks sprinkled across. She knows at once where she is, but the emptiness somehow still resides, loneliness corrupting her little heart.

She looks over her hands, and notices the remnants of a handful of dandelions she once picked from the field. So, once more, she smears the bright fragrance upon her tiny neck, and once more delights in its scent, and the remedy for love that it gives.

At once, we muse over Diane’s desire to replace love with a scent. But what love should such a little girl desire? If romance exists, it would certainly be misunderstood. What of familial love? Where does this exist in Diane’s heart? The field is her company. Something which she cannot explain, wreaks chaos in her youthful bosom. Some parts are bliss, some parts are woe, yet all seems normal to her, even the woe.

She falls backwards, a passing glance at the blue sky, then goes to sleep in a trance of forgetfulness. So, this is her youth. Who knows where she obtains her meals? Who knows, during a frightful tempest, where she takes shelter for the nights? It is all simply unknown.

That habit of rubbing scents in her neck remains a tradition in the following months. Even when she enters Paris, and the sight of artificial creation is prominent before her delicate eyes, she will stop at a floral shop. A few petals taken from a chosen flower should not be troubling for the storekeeper, especially when in the hands of this little maiden.

Diane, when in the city, appears invisible to anyone nearby. Diane passes them by, without anyone heeding her presence. She is ignored, and that may be unfortunate, but those that cannot matter to her do not detect any hint of trouble in her countenance.

A city’s citizens take the roads most frequently treaded if needing to be near what is popular. Where skies are in the company of a starry night, smoke trails from the stacks above homes, hinting at brewing tea.

One building possesses that charm needed to attract the cruel and hollow. No one will ever mistake walls that have darkened to cinnabar from rust. One beggar’s fiendish eye roams to a priest who utters a prayer for the miseries drunk deeply in the heart of Paris. This place is a tavern with velvet curtains, and an atmosphere which again, is a magnet for the crude and shameful. Oh, the peaceful tidings among the seekers of tranquility. Those with their devilish glares; a bishop with his crippled lamb; the lush poison deep in their cups…A smell will randomize the equation, while a fog emanates desirous sweet, decadent odor, trapping old life in winter branches, seeking shelter from the summer heat.

Next to a neighboring display of floral arrangements, Diane paces. She holds a makeshift doll. Its edges are so torn, it might be mistaken for an effigy. Might it be someone she knows? No, it cannot, as she does not know anyone.

Poetry drips from her lips. She hums mono and dual syllables, as they keep this sad rhythm. She is like a little bird, pacing over the walkway, dancing between the legs of walkers. She showers unknown strife upon the petals in her grasp. Calmness, tranquility and endearment is what the life of the innately pure emit.

By contrast, there is the aching solemnity of her joys. Dreams are locked in a flashing heart. They are swept over roadways, into the sewers, or saturate apple orchards. Wishes flow, and a subdued mind trembles with anxiety. Tempests liven a heart, reveling in contradiction with a decaying world. Diane is playing emotion on her own piano.

Two petals hang from the first two fingers of her left hand, held there by her thumb.          Her hand squeezes five more. They are varied hues and shades, though otherwise are the same. Somehow, their scents are not strong enough, and do not quickly envelope her. She tosses what she holds onto the walkway. Her face speaks entirely of disappointment.

She then moves her gaze to the tavern across the street. An open window pours out the smoke from roasting meat and the chattering lips holding onto cigars. Yet, the spoken words in this Parisian tavern ignite interest within the flowery bosom of this girl. When she passes near the tavern, a turn of her head brings her attention to fullness. She notices something that relates itself to her soul, through the most miserable portion which remains unattended. However, sympathy sparks.

A grim figure, slumped against the left side of an alley outside of the tavern, appears. The doll in Diane’s fingers, is now seen as awful in her eyes. It is meager, futile, somber, the thing even appears useless. So, as she did with the petals, she tosses it to the floor. It breaks into fragments as it lands. Still, a smile plays on Diane’s lips. One who passes has noticed this event, and bestows a look of sadness, as an offering to Diane which she neither notices, nor even senses, given that she is oblivious to that person’s presence.

The empathetic figure is feminine in form. The streams of cloth create a rather immodest impression, with worn breasts under curls of cloth that cover folds of fat furled over, dominating the crotch. The woman’s legs are bent, so that her knees point towards the sky which is wrapped in a deep murk of darkness. A ghastly overtone shrouds the body in every shade and tint of black. The head, otherwise observed as a seemingly pale fixture on a wooden figurine, is bent low towards the feet, as though solemnity has roused it to engage in a prayer. The hair is pulled evenly about the shoulders, which are bare in this heated June afternoon.

Diane observes all this in this human form. That same sympathy is increased tenfold as she gains the courage to approach her. By some unexplainable choice, or purely through timid obliviousness, this figure does not notice the small, approaching girl.

It will take even greater courage for Diane to speak, but somehow, she is capable of that. She says, “Excuse me. Why are you sitting alone?”

With this blessing of what she takes as affection, the woman thrashes her head sideways and up, but not until taking hold the sight of this little girl with rosy cheeks and charming smile. No beauty remains on this fossil of a being. Smooth cheeks have been replaced by coarseness that rival boar bristles. Full lips, now blistered, are riddled with small cuts. Dirt flakes off her exterior adding to the corrosion of the alley. Loathing, which society keeps as a measure of control, has driven this woman to become the harlot she now embodies.

Diane repeats herself. “Excuse me. Why are you sitting alone?”

The woman looks at her as though she is a toy. She may even remind the woman of a youth that had once been happier than this state of distress in which she now wallows.

Crimson melts over Diane’s features as this somber stare intensifies.

This filthy and withered prostitute says, “Are you my daughter?” returning the question with another question, which surprises Diane.

“No, I am not your daughter.”

“Then who are you?”

“I would like to know that of you.”

“No one. I’m no one. Are you one of his own?”

“I do not know what you mean.”

“You wouldn’t understand, young girl. You are just too fresh.”

A slight understanding of this final word, fresh, rings in Diane’s mind. She has heard it used amongst the crowds of people in a floral shop. One had pointed to a bud, and with the sharp observance she kept handy, she had somewhat understood, albeit in vague futility.

So, she says, “Like flowers?”

The woman releases a hoarse laugh. “Sit by me,” she says.

Diane, with the ignorance that leads to perpetual smiles, places herself beside the woman, who is sitting on a worn mattress. Miserable fumes from the woman’s body enter through the nostrils, yet Diane does not falter. She wills it away weakly, for the scene around her is only an experiment. She manages to sit comfortably, with hands curled over her small lap.

The previous sympathy raises now into an attempt at empathy, the first stage in the development of a bond.

The inevitable conversation then begins, tinged with unpleasant sincerity.

“How would you know?” the woman asks.

“I do not know what you mean,” Diane repeats.

“What would such purity be afraid of? Not this misery which is laid next to you for your nostrils to breathe. Yet even my words are not enough to make you recoil.”

“I am not bothered by it,” says Diane.

“Then what are you bothered by?”

Diane thinks hard on this query. In full observation of the prostitute near her, she drops her head low. Though she ponders over an answer to give, all that amounts are emptiness. So, the final answer given to all questions is a simple plea for silence. She says, “I do not know.” And the air turns cold.

It is a hideous moment, as the woman grows angry. She bares her teeth, then begins to hiss, reaching for Diane’s arm. She grasps it, and holds it firmly. “And I know who you are! You’re the wretch who is coddled by dismay! You wouldn’t know excitement if it melted onto you. Just try and eat up life with a sweet tongue! It won’t work!”

Diane screams, “Let go! Please, let go!” She begins to thrash around, but the woman holds tight, a burning stare searing into Diane’s countenance. She also begins to thrash, threatening to break the girl’s arm. Flakes of dust stampede the brownish air, as it flies away from this prostitute’s dirtied eyes.

“I could kill you, if I wanted to!” the woman seethes.

Just when the young girl attempts a second scream, someone rounds the corner of the alley. The woman’s eyes soften at the sight. She shouts, “Darling!” and is embraced by the arms of a lover. He does not seem to notice Diane, and both take their leave.

Diane cannot fathom what has just transpired. She sinks her head between her shoulders, and goes to sleep, slouched against the wall.

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