Of all the books I was given as a child
the one I remember the most is “Where’s Waldo?”
I stared for hours at the brightly colored pages
crowded with crazy characters that made children smile.
I searched incessantly for the man in the red and white striped shirt
with the everlasting smile underneath his matching hat.
I recall the triumph I felt at finally spotting Waldo:
at the beach, the circus, the carnival, the rat race.
Each time I look in the mirror to apply makeup
to a woman with pale skin and blue eyes,
I’m reminded of how I searched for Waldo so many years before.
The mirror shows me a similarly vibrant scene of colors:
a crowd of people daring me to find the woman I wish to disguise.
I gaze upon a pristinely sculpted lady
who always minds her pleases and thank yous
as she marches through life with a stiffly enduring smile.
Beyond her is a barefoot goddess with fiery hair.
The flames stretch to lips that smile or smirk
at her whim as she dances through the herd,
carefully avoiding the naked maiden who trembles before the spectators.
The maiden’s hands and feet are bound and her eyes are cast downward.
Her tears trail along her bruised skin,
piercing the slashes that cover her sacrificial body.
Beside her stands a sister in captivity,
but this one’s feral eyes glare defiantly at the onlookers.
She begs for more with savage laughter
that casts her own humiliation back upon her captors.
A mother turns from them in fear,
denying that the bruises in her soul
are equal to those of the slaves,
because she knows that she too is a slave.
I spot a distinguished gentleman whose wealth
grants him the power of the world at his fingertips,
but all I see in his eyes are questions.
A prince stands tall and proud,
the contrast of gentle eyes and muscular arms
are symbols of the serenity he feels at never knowing fear.
The prince walks with a brother whose smile matches his own,
but this one’s eyes search the mob for a toy
to fill the void that is his soul.
A golden retriever hangs his head out a car window,
his heart fulfilled because he is with his best friend.
I spy a tiger-striped kitten weaving her way through the crowd,
nuzzling her human servants at her convenience
before stopping to bat at a turtle that pokes
its head from underneath its shell.
Flying up above this reflected circus is a Hawk:
Beautiful and proud and strong.
A predator who flies not to flee, but to be free.
When I finally spot the woman I’m searching for
I feel an even greater triumph than I felt
at locating Waldo so many years ago.
Her haunted eyes sparkle with a familiar glint
and we share a knowing smile,
proud of the secret that only we know:
the “Where’s Waldo?” series isn’t about finding Waldo
because Waldo was never missing.
Perhaps the real title of the books should be: