Yesterday morning I went to the fountain. I brought my pen and notebook, some biscuits, and a glass of water. There, on the bench, I rolled up the hems of my jeans and the sleeves of my top. The sunshine fell in patterns between the palm leaves above. There were sparrows chirping and flitting between nests. I tossed them a bit of my biscuit, but they were on some other mission besides food. This being springtime, they were likely in a hurry to start their families.
When I had written all that I had to say, I gathered my things together for the walk back. I was on path, stopping once to examine a river stone. I put it back in place and started out again for home.
I felt a tug from somewhere telling me to take a different path, over the berms instead of across the black top parking lot. So, I did. When I emerged from the shrubbery, the maintenance crewman was toting a large green industrial garbage bag.
“Well! How are you?” he said in his chipper demeanor, rounding out the ‘o’s.
“Hi! I’m fine. Haven’t seen you for a while. What’s going on?”
“Busy as a bee this mornin’,” he said with emphasis on the ‘s’ in ‘busy’ as a ‘z.’ Then he vanished behind the wall between me and the dumpster. There followed a tremendous ‘bang’ from his having heaved the bag into the dumpster, which must have been empty for such a sound to come from a simple task.
“What was that!”
He bounced back into sight, “You never know what people throw out,” referring to the recent egress of tenants.
“Maybe it’s better that we don’t know,” I said.
Then I saw her. The extra-large East Indian lady was making her way up a flight of stairs. Because of her largeness and lavish garments, it was difficult to tell whether she was toting something or not. I have seen her and greeted her from afar, so I knew she had trouble with standing and walking.
“Oh!” I said out loud, is she carrying something upstairs?” The maintenance man said something, but I could in no way relate it to what was before me at the time. “I’ve got to go see if I can help her.”
But I had to put my notebook, pen, and glass of water somewhere. Plop, went the notebook on the concrete next to the stairwell. The pen was already attached to the notebook. The glass, I set on the notebook. Then I followed the woman – now half way up the flight – asking if she needed help. I got a glance back, which in hindsight should have told me she had enough to do besides turning backward to see what was following her and speaking a foreign language, (English.)
I caught up with her and checked to see if she was carrying a bundle or some-such. She wasn’t; she was merely doing her best to take the staircase one step at a time, which in hindsight, I should already have known and been practicing my own self! Wise woman, she.
Just in case, I followed her to the landing; there, she eased her body around to face me as I pretty much froze two steps below her, not knowing exactly how to explain myself. She listened patiently while I scrambled to reassure her that I was no threat – or at least I did not mean to be such. She gave indication that she had seen me before, and I gathered that she was not threatened by the sight of me. Interesting to me, this woman conveyed that she had seen me, by hand, mimicking a rectangular picture frame on a wall and then pointing to the opposite landing which overlooked the central greens and walkway, where we had first greeted from a distance.
“Oh, yes, I understand that you have seen me before… “ and then it was time for me to gesture my understanding of her, which I did by using the traditional Namaste greeting. The look of exquisite joy on her face broke down a thousand barriers at that moment.
She gestured for me to follow her. I resisted. She gestured again, head bowed in gentle motherly encouragement. She was conveying an invitation to enter her home. Again, I resisted but less so than before. But she won me over and I left the notebook full of tragedy and comedy there, at the bottom of the stairwell for the public’s taking if so desired. It was a risk versus benefit situation. The risk being that my notebook would go full viral; or, the benefit of befriending this gentle woman.
Whatever. The notebook will be there, or not, when I return.
There was a drowning aphid in my water-glass when I got back. I picked it out, declared it dead, and flicked it away.