I first come across "Gracie" reading a tattered book crouched in the shade of the stores along Franklin Street. She is animated and quick in her speech. And expresses herself with the hand motions and facial gestures of a 1950s starlet posing or blowing kisses. Yet remains cautious of others. When I ask her name, she responds, "it's one who loves beauty...Grace, uh, no Gracie. I like that better."
She says she left the North for Chapel Hill about three years ago. Barely giving herself time for a breath, she streams: "I love the smell of the trees. It's great. Up north they do not have these kind of trees. Like the crape myrtles. I call them snow flowers. And the mockingbirds and the lizards. There is a beauty about the South. There's a melancholy about it. Before sunset, like the way the light shines in the trees... "
"Gracie" asks me to check my phone for the date of an upcoming dance performance at Memorial Hall. There is lightness to her that alludes to an artistic past. She says she once danced with renowned modern dance/choreographer Martha Graham and is eager to see an upcoming show. In lieu of checking my phone, I offer to cross the street to grab her a catalog at the Carolina Performing Arts offices. I don't think she believes me.
When I return, I find her digging through her purse in the alley closest to Starbucks. She looks surprised to see me. I hand her the catalog and she thanks me. "I cannot even afford to take dance lessons....but I dance on the street."
(photographed on Franklin Street between Columbia and Henderson Streets)