McDowell and Central

“They should put me down like a dog,” a woman said after she shuffled herself and walker past a protruding bike tire and sat down next to me on the light rail. She has cataracts, she said, and can’t hear well. She needed to get off at McDowell. She was having surgery next week.
“You remind me of my daughter. I’m not sure why. You have the same smile.” She fixed the green felt beret on her head. She’s a grandmother and a great grandmother. She’s only 68.
She pulled over a black and white patterned purse, unzipped it, unzipped a green wallet, pulled out a bulging white envelope secured with a rubber band like one of those bank envelope filled with money, pulled off the rubber band – her layers reminded me of a Russian doll, unfolding and revealing with each shed. There was something equally small inside as she flipped through cards and documents: a laminated photo with her daughter in the middle of two children; A young, 20ish blonde girl on top and a brown-haired boy about 10 on the bottom. “See?” she said, pointing to her daughter’s heavy cheeks and brassy red hair. “Yeah, I can see it,” I lied.
“She was a firefighter, search and rescue, tough as nails before her cancer.
“And my granddaughter,” she pointed to the blonde, beaming, “is so pretty and did some modeling in New York City. She has my great-grand son. You’re pretty too. You remind me of my daughter. I haven’t talked to her in a long time. She has tattoos like you. I have one too, I used to be a renaissance woman. Then I was a nurse until my accident took off this side of my head.” I looked, horrified, to where she pointed expecting to see a jarring scar, but saw nothing except strawberry gray hair and a black glasses frame disappearing underneath it. “They gave me a permit and told me I couldn’t work anymore,” she laughed.
“That seems strange,” I agreed, “usually they give you permits FOR working.”
“Exactly! Are you a student?” she asked.
“No, I work for the paper.”
“Oh I have some things to tell them!”
“Go easy! I just started there.”
Her stop was coming up. Two more, but she talked about how much she hated Romney, how she could never see him in the white house. That’s what she wanted to tell the paper. “Why does he need all that money? If I had that money, I’d give it back. I’m poor and I give back all the time. He could be happy with a couple million and give the rest back to the economy. I got a picture of Obama and his family and he wrote me a little note on it.” I half expected to see her pull it from her purse, but the mechanical voice sounded her stop above us. She got up slowly as the train lurched, her arm shaking on the stable bar. I wondered how long it had been since she’d seen her daughter? If estranged parents see their children in every one?
“I guess I’ll keep kicking until they tell me to stop.”
“Good plan,” I yelled back.
She smiled like I carried the essence of her daughter, like there was an ease of something lost she hadn’t felt in a long time.
Her wheels stuck in the empty space between the train and platform and with one heavy push, she left the dream alone.

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4 Responses to McDowell and Central

  1. Ms. Moon says:

    What a great story! Thank-you for taking the time to talk to that woman and then for writing it all down so beautifully.

    • rachvb says:

      She seemed like she needed someone to talk to. Generally I’m NOT stranger chatty at all and avoid it as much as possible, but that has mostly to do with drunk people and men. I hope she has people in her life. I do I do. Thank you Ms. Moon. xo

  2. Julie says:

    I agree 100% with Ms. Moon, says your Aunt Sunshine. You have such a good heart.

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