Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I was standing on the corner outside Peel's on the lower east side waiting for my daughter Andrus. We were meeting for brunch- and it was a beautiful day, so I put us on the wait list for one of the outside tables, and went to wait in the sun. Lots of people heading out for a meal, running weekend errands, or walking dogs. Saturday morning, autumn, New York City. Warm sun, cool air- about perfect.
I was leaning against a bus stop shelter, watching the scene, when a cute young couple walked up with 3 Whole Foods paper bags of their household trash, and deposited them in a trash can about a yard from me. They had a brief cuddle and kiss and parted company and never even noticed me standing all of 2 feet from them. I used to live in NYC, long ago, when Soho was still mostly industrial buildings and galleries. You can develop a cloak of invisibility when you live in a big city...unless you are one of those characters who commands attention just waiting for a cab. I'm more of the voyeur type- so invisibility suits me.
As the couple separated and walked away, a second young couple- who had been approaching took center stage. They were street people, and everything they wore looked like it had been run over by city buses for a month. A year. Black, grey, brown grimy clothes, and the girl had shoes that were actually just soles, with scraps of leftover shoe across her feet, leather flapping this way and that. He had black dreadlocks to mid- back, and a heavy backpack, as did she. Blond, with a pierced nose, and a watch cap, she looked anxious, tired, and hopeful that those Whole Food bags might contain something she could eat. The man was on a rant, swearing about the city, and who knows what, while she searched the bags.
He stood right in front of me as he yelled and swore, maybe 2-3 feet away. His backpack was open at the top, and nestled into the top of it was a cage with rats in it. 2 grey-black rats, nosing the air, and moving about. Then he was gone, heading up the sidewalk, and I watched her as she kept her eye on how far ahead he was, while she continued to look through the bags. Finally she gave up, and set off after him.
We never made eye contact. She never saw me, or realized I was watching her from a yard away. But I saw her. As a mother, I wondered where her family was, if she had siblings, a grandmother, an aunt- does anyone worry about her? Do they know she is alive- if this is alive?
For a brief moment I thought I should have given her some money, then realized it would have probably caused tension between her and her mate. If she'd kept it for herself it becomes her burden, a secret. If she tells him about it he might take it. This is her life, not mine. Her path.
She has haunted me for days, with those tired, anxious eyes, wary and watchful. Her hunger gnaws at me. Her fatigue wears me out. And there is nothing to do but place her in my prayers at night when I do my practice. I can send her peace, and love. I was her witness, for a few brief moments, on a beautiful morning in New York, and I will be her advocate to the gods.