Dan Berkey

© Copyright 2002 by Dan Berkey

She was in the middle of 42nd street between third and second, frozen in terror as the traffic careened around her, a small elderly Hispanic woman. She covered her face with her hands. I thought at first to ignore this all too crazy scene, then something grabbed me, words of Robert A. Heinlein, “at cusp, choice is; spirit grows with choice.” I knew if I were to ignore this I would never be forgiven. Not knowing exactly where that came from I wasn’t about to ignore it. I turned toward the woman. Some people stared at her; a few made loud comments, “crazy old spic…serves her right if she were hit.” It occurred to me to knock the devil out of these hecklers, but I stopped myself. I slowly moved toward the woman. Cars honked and their occupants hollered, “get outta the street, ya dumb ass…what the hell…dumb ass messenger…” when I reached the woman I could hear she was crying. I put my head close and said, “it’ll be alright, lady. Here, take my hand.” and she took it with a mighty grip. I winced, but I did not pull away. I walked her slowly to shore, cars and buses, taxis and cyclists swerving to avoid us replete with the usual volley of invectives. We got to a bench and sat down. She still kept her one hand to her face, which was wet and white with fear. Her somewhat tattered overcoat with faded flower patterns seemed to engulf her. She kept her eyes down and muttered. I held her hand, which had finally relaxed. I bent close, and asked, “you alright, lady?” she didn’t look up but nodded, then she cocked her head till it touched mine and in the softest voice said, “it’s so awful to be old.” I almost burst into tears. Had it not been the middle of the day on a busy Manhattan street I would’ve yielded to the tears. I took a moment to calm myself, put my head gently against hers and said, “it’s alright, lady. I’m here too, and I’ll stay with you for as long as you like.” she lifted up her thin olive face, smooth for her years, and with a smile that shattered the furious, rock-faced torpor of the whirl-I-gig, work-a-day street, said, “please, just for a bit. You’re a nice man.” well, that did it. I gently put my head against hers as she put her arms around my shoulders, and we wept together for a time till it was all right to go. And when we parted I felt as though I’d known her forever.


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