The Girl with the Owl Backpack

It’s 5:00 A.M. and I’m outside throwing trash bags in the dumpster at work. It’s slightly raining. I’ve been sweating my ass off tonight so the drops feel like heaven on my face. I finish up with the trash and wheel the can around the building, to the front of the hotel. I notice a little girl no older than four or five standing next to the entrance. As I get closer, I realize she’s staring at her opened palm, studying the lines in her hand. Her eyes are so wide I think maybe she’s afraid about something, but I don’t know what. She doesn’t acknowledge my presence as I approach her, so I clear my throat and ask if she’s all right. She looks at me, slowly turning her head, then returns her gaze to her palm, not saying a word. It’s then that I notice the backpack strapped to her shoulders. It’s not a typical backpack. It’s one of those novelty bags that are designed in the shape of an animal. This certain bag is in the shape of an owl. A blue owl. I’ve been thinking about owls all night. I’ve been thinking about owls all my life. They are my life. Owls are the new flesh. Long live the new flesh. And now here is this little girl, at five in the morning, by herself, wearing an owl backpack. A part of me wants to cry. A part of me wants to die. But then I notice her family waiting in the lobby to check-out. I determine she just wandered outside without them realizing it. Or maybe they told her to go out and play. They look like horrible parents. They bought their daughter an owl backpack, after all.

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