Side Walk Cafe
We sit up straight. Quiet…like much of the world, right now. Masks at the ready for when the veterinarian returns our ear-infected dog to our truck. So strange, this new way of being.
Then I see a woman pushing an ancient, rusted cart. She looks to be an older, stooped-down version of my age, very wrinkled, hair and clothes disheveled. Her head turns side to side, bobs up and down and she’s mumbling to herself…no mask in place, no fancy ear buds, no standing on a corner with a cardboard sign. She seems to be mentally ill, and walks the sidewalks of a strip mall…searching for food.
She approaches our truck, but not too close, and manages to look up, “Food, any food?” I frantically look around for a stray orange, dig in my purse for the usual protein bar, find nothing.
“I’m sorry, we have nothing.”
She turns and walks away, empty. Stoop back in place, head bobbing.
It all hits me in the gut. Adrenalin kicks in. My God, she is hungry. I say it out loud to my dismayed husband. “She is hungry! I have to find something!” I dig deeper into my purse and at last, a Kind Bar. Oh my God, a Kind Bar! I throw on my mask and open the door.
“I’ll be right back.” And then I run. I run after the woman who represents in that moment, all of the world’s hunger and sadness. All of the world’s fear, poverty, war and mental illness. But hope too…I pray for hope.
“Lady, Lady! “I call out to her. “Ma’am, Ma’am” I scream. She turns. I hold up my simple trophy. “Something to eat, something to eat!”
I put the morsel down on a block of stone as she comes back for her meal, while I turn back to where I’m safe…to where I have a home.
Jean E. Taddonio