The Wayward Path to the All the Mystic Revelations and Revolutions of the Soul

Photograph by Jose Padua
Walking down New Street in Staunton,
Heather, Maggie, Julien, and I are in a line,
and lurching toward us are three big guys
in big coats, big baggy pants, snapback hats
or do-rags on their heads, looking all tough
and serious, and the first one looks down
to Julien, who’s sitting back in his stroller
still sleepy from a nap, and says all bright
and cheery, “Hey, little man!” The next
guy passes right by me, looks me close
in the eyes like he’s examining the poker hand
he’s just been dealt and says quietly,
almost whispering, “Hey, playah,”
while the last guy looks over to me and
nods approvingly. And I have to ask Heather,
in case she wasn’t paying attention,
“Did you hear that? He called me a player!”
But she’s not impressed, and Maggie asks,
“What’s a player?” and we find ourselves
having to explain, in ways appropriate
for an eight year old girl, that some people,
in some places, are perceptive enough
to recognize, that in my own way, I am
a total badass. And we realize that
no matter how hard we try, we can’t think
of another word for “badass.” And just like
up north they don’t really have
a hundred different words for snow,
there’s no other word in English
that means everything “badass” means;
no other expression where you open your mouth
so widely, daring everyone who’s watching
to gaze into the length and breadth of your soul.

-Jose Padua

The photograph was taken in Staunton, Virginia earlier today by Jose Padua.

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