Her name was Naomi. And to her, the name conjured hot, silent breezes that would brush past your skin like silk. The aromas of cinnamon and cardamom and roasting things lingering over exotic crowds of beautiful dark skinned people dressed in emerald greens, sunset oranges, the blue of desert skies and cold rivers. Women with kohl rimmed eyes and black hair falling from under shining nets of delicate gold and discs of silver.
But Naomi was none of these things. She was plain. Taller than the other girls, and most of the boys. Solidly built, and when she was in motion, she tumbled full tilt through the world, rolling, running, leaping, all dust and limbs. Otherwise she could sit for hours, barely raising her eyes from her book. Her eyes were the color of wash water after a summer days play caked skin was rubbed pink by her distracted mother. Her hair was nearly always snarled, and an in between shade of blond and brown, which promised only to darken a shade or two as she aged.
Here is an image of Naomi, laying on her stomach beneath a trio of pines she considered her very own, with a book out flat before her. Pine needles and small twigs dug into her fleshy elbows, which she wouldn't notice until she headed home with the first flickering of the street lights. She is alternately reading and gazing off through the pine boughs, embellishing and reinventing to her liking. She first tasted figs this way, imagining the filling of a fig newton crossed with the green flavor of a crisp pear. She smelled the ocean, like the fish counter at the Piggly Wiggly and the salt water she was forced to gargle every winter when her throat got sore. She has spent the entire summer between the library and her pine tree fortress, discovering the world in books and in her mind. It was a rich place, lush and unknowable in its entirety. It was full of kindness and danger and beauty beyond her reckoning. It held dresses of satin, and pig roasts, and frost bite that could turn your toes black. It held mysteries and murders and cars with no tops that let your hair whip out like freedom as you drove along the oceans edge. It is the summer that Naomi fell in love with books, and she fell in love with her mind, and she couldn't wait for school to start again.
September rolled around with the frustration of clothes shopping and the thrill of supply shopping. She grudgingly said okay to a plaid jumper and a blue wool skirt. She pleaded with dewy eyes for the binder with the unicorn on it. Her heart nearly burst with joy as she sharpened all three of her brand new pencils and inhaled the raw, intoxicating aroma of their shavings. She counted the days. It took her longer and longer to fall asleep at night, until finally, finally the first day of school arrived.
6:42am. Naomi leapt from bed clear into the middle of her room, and was off like a shot. She sat on the toilet, tapping her toes on the cold linoleum, trying to relax her bladder enough to go. "Finally" she whispered. She washed her hands and face, braided her own crooked pigtails, and ran back to her room. Ack. The plaid jumper. New Monday underpants, red tights, the too white shirt with the peter pan coller, the dreaded jumper. Into the kitchen by 6:50 and her mother wasn't up yet, as the alarm had been set the night before for 7:00 on the dot. Naomi dragged a chair to the cupboard and was pulling out cereal when the light flicked on. Her mother stood at the kitchen door, sleepy and smiling at her. "Omi, for pete's sake girl, what have you done with your hair?" she asked. Naomi shrugged one shoulder, reaching up to feel the lumps and stray hairs, "Braided it" she said.