Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I noticed her first only as a slow-moving anomaly amid the early evening rush. Intent on forward motion, she was bent slightly in her wheelchair; both arms pumped in unison, rhythmically, though as she approached I could see that only one was managing to make contact with the rubber grip of the wheel. The sound of her right foot dragging was soft and muffled by traffic, but the left inched up and down in time with the arms, faintly tap-tap-tapping the ground. Her uneven tracks in the sidewalk dust gave way quickly to the scuffling of other, more forceful footsteps. Her plaid top was limp yet dry, in contrast to the sweat eating through my own clothing. She reminded me of an abandoned powder box, dated and dessicated.

"Would you like some help? Could I give you a push?"

"Yes, if it's no trouble." The tone of her voice made it clear I was merely a potentially useful distraction on the path to a final goal; she looked past me down the street, fingering a space near her collarbone where a string of pearls must once have been. "I'm just going to the 7-11." Repositioning myself behind her chair gave me a clearer view of the white roots of her hair, bounded by dull brown dye. As I pushed, her arm continued to churn the air, gaining vigor as we crossed the two blocks. The sight of the convenience store made it flutter anxiously.

"Yes, yes -- just here. Thank you, that's lovely."

"Should I take you inside? Is there anything I could..."

"No, no; here is fine." Only now did I notice a thin line of sweat on her brow. She grasped a railing and she and the chair pulled out of my hand, darting forward in an amazing show of agility. Exiting customers skirted curiously around her; she was panting sharply, fixated on the glass door. "When they see me, they'll bring me out what I want. They just have to see me..." The left arm she raised above her head, waving and frantic, was devoid of jewelry.

No longer needed, I turned and walked home.

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