lumerpa (loo-MER-pa), noun
A mythological radiant bird from Asia that shines so brightly it absorbs its own shadow.
The hammer slipped to the ground from his sweaty palm. Rivers of dirt mingled into mud and flowed down his heart line into his line of fate. He wiped the nonsense from his hands onto his jeans and picked up his tool belt. He walked across the yard, peeling off his sticky plaid shirt. He flung it onto a rock and listened to it sizzle against the dry heat.
From across the yard a woman appeared with lemonade and grapes arranged perfectly on her carryout tray. Her wide brimmed hat shadowed her face and Gabriel looked at her as if the breeze had just swept across the aired soil. The sight of her was enough to pulse the phantom wind through his core. It was enough to keep him working on her father’s tedious project one more day.
“Thirsty?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am” he said, guzzling the lemonade before setting the glass back on her tray. Her gloved hands slipped from the handle. She tipped off balance and tumbling the glass and pile of grapes to the ground. The blue and white plate teetered on the cobblestone.
“Sorry,” Gabriel hunched over to pick up his mess. The grapes were cold in his rough hands and he piled them back on the plate. The soft white powder smudged off the grapes and were replaced by his sweaty, muddy fingerprints.
The sun felt hot against his neck as he watched her wince at her desecrated tray. She had imagined herself walking out to Gabriel, offering lemonade and untouched grapes. He would set his tools down and take the tray from her, gently placing it on the rock between them. They would sit and chat, laugh a little, perhaps even flirt. She imagined her white dress, the fourth one she had tried on after deciding the blue one was too plain, the purple one was too obvious and the yellow one was not approved by her father. Her white dress matched her white hat and she would glide into the yard like a lumerpa, dazzling Gabriel away from his strenuous day. He would forget all things that made him frown and be engulfed by her beauty.
She had never actually spoken to him, simply watched from the window, dreaming, wondering, hoping. She imagined their children and the horse he would buy for her. She imagined his smile though she had never seen it. She understood and forgave him for not enjoying the work her father paid him for. She imagined the thoughts that put together this man, whose body was worn by the sun, but tightened by hard labor. She dreamed until finally one day her father suggested she take a drink out to the poor boy. He had been working tirelessly and never even took a break. She never thought to wonder why.
As Gabriel set the dirt smeared glass back on her tray, she gagged. Just a little. She couldn’t help it, but he saw it happen. The man standing before her was filthy. A lamen worker. Clumsy like a child. Her radiant white dress suddenly felt dull, dirty in the hot sun like already it had collected that day’s pollen. Gabriel’s shoulders were no longer bronzed, but up close were tired and unclean. His scent repulsed her and she watched him smile with blue eyes that she would later think of as dopy.
Her tiny lips pierced and she coughed.
“I’d best be getting back now.”
He smiled at her for the first time, something like a laugh caught in his throat. She turned and hurried back to the house, where she tipped the plate of grapes straight into the garbage, ran to her room and cried for the rest of the day.