Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Mean Reds

I woke up today with the mean reds.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly:     No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what
you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling -Breakfast At Tiffany's

I had absolutely no REAL reason to have the mean reds, I but I did.  Despite spending the last Friday night of 2012 JUST as I wanted to, (RAWR) I woke up this morning and felt a sadness I could not explain. All morning/early afternoon I felt weepy. Nothing untoward happened.

Maybe it's 'cause I had just enough to drink last night to feel something, but not be drunk. 
Maybe it's cause I stayed up almost until dawn.  
Maybe it's 'cause I woke up too early.
Maybe it's 'cause last night's full moon ALWAYS throws my hormones out of wack.
Maybe it's 'cause it was snowing outside today and then it turned into awful cold rain instead. 

I wanted to do nothing but wallow in my jammies, eat something delicious, veg out in front of Netflix and snuggle up with someone warm all day. Alas, it wasn't in the cards.  I got off the train, stopped to get a coffee and saw an elderly woman shuffling down the street with a damaged four post cane and a shopping cart she dragged behind her.  The rain was coming down heavier, but she had no umbrella. Her hands were full with the cart and the cane anyway. This lady barely came up to my shoulders as she moved down the street in her navy coat and matching canvas shoes. I turned to walk in the direction of my house, craving my pajamas in this wet cold, then changed my mind, turned back and saw her moving with difficulty through the crowds on the sidewalk.  No one even paused to offer their help. I rushed through the people and scurried to her side.

"Ma'am, may I help you?"

She looked up at me with surprise as I held my borrowed umbrella over her head. Her eyes were clear blue, and I noticed a tiny hint of makeup on her liver spotted cheeks. Her voice held no surprise as she thanked me.  "Ohhhh! Thank you so much dearie. I can't hold an umbrella and hold the cart and my ..." she gestured to her cane.  I noticed that one of the rubber stoppers on the four legs of the cane wasn't attached correctly. I wanted to fix it for her right then and there, but that would have required she stop walking and that didn't seem to be something that was about to happen.  After a few paces, I offered to take the cart from her.

"No thank you honey. It helps me to balance." She gestured again to the cart and the cane. "You know, sometimes you find people who are so very nice on this street."

We walked down Church Avenue towards the large houses of Ditmas Park in the rain and she chatted with me as best she could while navigating her seemingly heavy cart and the peg-legged cane. The two of us took up much of the sidewalk and several people passed by with frustration.  I wondered how many times had I been in such a hurry that I may have inadvertently been mean to someone who needed a little extra time or help.  I shook my head at the woman who sucked her teeth as she stepped into the street to pass us in a hurry.  My companion stopped on the sidewalk, looked at the woman overstuffed into her stretch jeans and too-fitted parka as she hurried ahead of us.

"People nowadays are so fat.  They eat way too much junk food and don't take care of themselves."


She told me about the Chinese woman in the laundry who'd helped her.
"She showed me how to put the soap in and when to get more money for the drier.  She helped me, but I helped her too."

She told me about her Jamaican friend, a painter whose paintings "look like glass."

She told me about how bad Europe was during WWII when she lived in Austria.
"You have no idea what it was like first with those Nazis, then with Stalin. It was such a big place Austria was. The good thing was then, the princes all had to spend 3 years learning a trade of a common man. There were also poor houses in all areas so that people took care of each other."

She told me about the house she lived on the first floor of and had lived in since 1961.
"Other people live on the other floors. The bank owns it, but they are good to me because I am good to them."

She told me about her husband. They were married for 50+ years and had no children.
"He was in the merchant marines. There were so many people of all different walks of life there. While he was with them, he contracted something. He could have all the sex he wanted, but his sperm was no good."

The last one definitely made me chuckle.  There was no sadness in her voice as she spoke of the old days.  There was no remorse as she spoke of the man who she'd loved and lost. There was no pain as she ambled about and spoke to a complete stranger about random details of the life she'd lived.  She was alive and she was happy. #Givethanks

When we reached her slate blue multi family house, I offered to take the cart up the 4 then 6 steps up to her porch.

"You are so sweet. Thank you so much."

I handed her my cup of coffee and gave her the umbrella to hold so that she could stay dry while I took the cart up to the porch.

"Oh! your coffee! It's going to be cold."

"No worries ma'am. It was scalding when they gave it to me. You've actually done me a favor because now I can actually drink it."

When I took the handle of the cart, I expected it to be really heavy and cumbersome.  I am no Hercules, but I was able to lift and carry it up the steps with one hand.

As I moved up the steps, I heard her call to me

"Are you married honey?"

I took a deep breath before answering her.

"I was ma'am, but he wasn't the right fit for me, so..." Before I could finish, she startled me yelling,

"GO! Get rid of it." Then she changed her voice again as I came down the steps towards her.

"A nice girl like you only deserves good fits.  You only deserve good fits and good men. Don't settle for or accept anything else."

I smiled as I took my coffee from her and held the umbrella over her so she could walk up the steps.

"Tonight, I am going to pray for you. To thank God for people like you and to pray that you will find a good man who deserves a good girl like you."

I thanked her profusely and reached in my bag to give her a card with my number on it so she could call me if she needed any help with anything. She refused, then thanked me even more while I stood at the gate of her property to make sure she got in safely.  I turned to walk home and looked back a few times to make sure she was ok.

2 strangers probably pass through each other's lives on a rainy Saturdays in Brooklyn all the time.  I wonder if anyone else's exchanges meant as much to them as this one did. We never exchanged names. I didn't do the exploitative social media bs where I capture the moment to prove how awesome I am or how adorable she was. Even as I sat down to write this, I worry that someone reading it may miss the point and think I am writing it for praise for my actions.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

On the surface, it may seem like I helped her more than she helped me. She and I may not be destined to be friends, but after that short walk a few blocks out of my way today,  I forgot all about those mean reds that haunted me this morning.

Don't let anyone dull your shine!

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