March 4, 2011

A Neighborhood Adventure

The old lady probably woke up early, as usual. She got up slowly, as usual. Thankfully she could still get up and get ready on her own. That might not last much longer, at her age.

(Sparing the details of a long, slow routine), Agnes made it to the front door of her third floor apartment, ready to fight the elements. Long, black, quilted coat: on and buttoned to the top. Knitted mittens, layered over knitted gloves (she was a knitting pro): on. She had mastered the art of closing and locking the door with two bulky layers over her knotted hands, because who wants to put gloves on after you've left your warm house? Toasty black boots: yanked into place despite arthritis and almost total inability to reach her toes. And, the icing on the old lady cake, a clear plastic tie cap, with plain white trim: tied neatly in place to provide ultimate protection from wind, precipitation and being mistaken for a younger woman.

The third floor was a necessary evil at 80. High enough to prevent burglars from invading and causing a heart attack, among other things, but not convenient for the ever slower and more pain-ridden old woman.

Agnes hustled to the bus stop outside her building. Passing cars whizzed by her as she walked to the curb, hunched over and bundled against the bitter cold. She seemed to barely notice any of it. Her mission was foremost on her mind, and hidden from the rest of the world.

She stared across the street, over the cars and past all the sights in front of her. The physical was so secondary at this point; only the mind really mattered. At least her mind still functioned and (usually) followed her directions.

The bus arrived and she boarded. It whisked her away from home and forward to the day's necessities.

It was dark when Agnes' journey ended. She slowly descended from the city bus' open door. The driver and other passengers were probably not too happy about the extra time and care she took. Or, if it was one of those rare sympathetic groups, they smiled as they watched her and wished her a good evening.

There she was again, on the curb outside her apartment building, watching the cars rush by on the six-lane thoroughfare. Suddenly, she darted across the street faster than anyone would have expected she was capable of, her tiny legs a blur under her hunched back and bulky coat! Something only she could see was escaping her capture. Once again, she had overcome any physical obstacle to do what needed to be done. She was still in control of herself and her destiny, and she would stay that way (hopefully).

The adrenaline rush lasted only 20 or 30 seconds. She made it through the urban gauntlet and reached the other side, prize in hand. Clutching that $100 bill, she looked over to her side of the street, seeming to see right through the cars and activity, right into her warm and comfortable apartment. She could almost feel her soft, low chair, her slippered feet up on the ottoman and cup of warm tea by her side: her reward for the toil each day exacted from her, required of her, to maintain her existence.

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