Biking down El Colegio Road a few weeks back, something caught my eye: a certain glimpse of bright pink, a sparkle among the construction-induced brown fog that had dimmed the early November air.
Captivated and provoked, I let my eyes settle, and to my surprise, I was met with a gesture of gentle confrontation – an erudite wink that cut through the thick air and seemed to say, “Yes, I do have a secret… ”
She had that same pink scarf — still whipped so perfectly around her neck, accenting her rosy cheeks — when I went to meet her and discover her secrets. She was posted comfortably on the lone bench in the outdoor foyer of Friendship Manor, her home for the past nine years.
A gregarious 86 years young, Margo the Maverick – as I like to call her — sits with her ears stuck out of her pillow-white hair like turn signals indicating two directions at once. A floral cap squeezed the top of her round head – a head filled with memories of when she was young and in love.
In love not with a man, she insisted; no husband shares her bed. No, she is in love with the flowers that grow in her wake, the skies that color her canvas skin, the leaves that fall upon and decorate her white head in autumn, her favorite season of year.
Throughout our late-afternoon chat, her right hand was never seen without a cigarette.
“They keep me young!” she pledged, smoke trickling from her nostrils — a gentle chuckle erupting from her core.
I offered her a light — “Aren’t you a doll!” she exclaimed — and watched her, the poster woman for pro-smoking ads, slink back into her seat, the warmth of the sun washing over her, restoring her once again to her preferred state of complete calm. It was hard to look at this woman and not be entirely overcome by an appreciation, truly, for all the majesty and beauty and irony in the world.
Of course, this Czechoslovakian native could tell you that these things surround us always (something you or I may have easily forgotten).
“There’s magic everywhere! You just have to believe that’s what it is. That sunset — just look at that sunset! The red and the yellow and the pink, they just go on forever…”
Magic, indeed. But why in Isla Vista, of all the magical places? This is a question to which I never received a straight answer. Instead, I was told, in spite of myself, to appreciate the things in life we have and to not question why we have them.
“That’s something I learned when I came to this country, all those years ago.” She smirked and took another drag from her cigarette.
That’s just the way that Margo the Maverick goes about her life — a true palimpsest of human experience. Her melodious accent dances through the air, tickling the perked-up ears of those lucky enough to listen. And if you listen, you might hear stories of the mischief and mayhem she’s sparked, the Parisian streets she’s roamed, the lampposts she’s kissed against, the puddles she’s skidded, the trials she’s undergone, the wounds she’s mended, the souls she’s healed and the ripples she’s cast.
With a cough from the core, a tender squeeze of an arm and her eyes to the sky, she walks off, as suddenly as she had come.