We are on our way to storytime. I push zazu in the stroller. We get to the bus stop no one is waiting. Meaning we just missed it. Usually there is a crew of folks. Most are normal folks, some gang members, a few are users, drinkers, drug addicts. I once saw a woman dozing off from her high. She was holding a little baby in her arms. He was in blue and had a blanket loose around him. She was sitting on the bench under the bus shelter. I woke her up. "Oh, how old is your sweet baby?"
"Oh, he's three months." She said slowly lifting her head and sitting up a little bit. She pulled the baby closer.
"I have little ones too." I said trying to keep her on earth. I would catch that baby. She said, "I'm not even waiting for the bus. I'm waiting for nicky to come back."
"Oh cause I was going to tell you that the bus is coming." I didn't want to leave. She was alert now. She pushed her long, thin blond hair back away from her shoulder.
"I'm OK. The baby is OK." She said in molasses. I doubted that big time. She nodded at me. A thin guy with hair the same color as hers approached.
The lady said, "Here comes your bus." I got on the bus staring out the window at them.
That memory lingers with me as I decide to walk. The library is about a mile away. I can do that easy. I am a New Yorker after all. I love walking. I take to the bright busy streets. Gritty to say the least.
I get to a bus stop three blocks away. It's a major intersection. I check down the street to see if a bus is coming, I would hop on. No bus and I wait for the light to change. Cut to the couple having the argument. He is up in her face saying something. She steps back yelling back at him. I didn't want to look. My heart is pounding. I cross the street. The woman yells loudly, "Don't you put your hands on me" as I am crossing the street. I am upset. I don't know what to do. He follows her seeming threatening. Yells at her to come back. She disappears down a hill and he starts walking in my direction and then quickly changes his mind. He goes back towards her. I I can hear the woman yelling at the man. A group of men are watching. They have come out of the store and are all standing outside. I implore the men.
"Please go help her. She needs help. Don't just stand there. Go!" My toddler keeps repeating, "Go, go." Two men go down. Nobody says anything.
The men come back shaking their heads, "They gone." The light skin guy says. Then they go back into the store talking about what they saw. I stand there for a moment. Afraid for that woman. I think about a woman I know who goes through that daily. I witnessed her partner losing his temper and hurt her in the parking lot of Chuckie Cheese while we were getting the children in the car. The woman had zoomed out of the parking lot leaving her partner temporarily in the dust.
As I walk away I think of the other women who deal with that daily. Zazu calls me and I go to her. "Happy mama?" I smile at her sweet face. I take a deep breath.
"OK baby let's go to story time." I smile genuinely at her. I straighten up and look around and people rush by going their way. It didn't seem as if they had seen or heard anything. I am back on track and I pray that man let her be or someone made him let her be. I feel helpless. All i can do is give ether. I feel thankful for my partner and life situation.
I start really thinking about my life. What am I doing with my gifts? I think about my writing workshops and what my goals are for them. I think about that woman. I distract myself with lists of goals. Teaching is something i love and do well. The couple keep coming back to me and I tell myself there is nothing I can do about it. I notice a woman about to cross the street with two girls and a teen age boy. Though I didn't recognize her at first she is a person who has taken one of my workshops. I want to say something about what I have just seen but her children are there and they are
young girls. We chat and she makes faces at zazu. I fold the stroller and the bus comes. We chat on the bus and I get off at my stop. My thoughts once again reflected back to me.
Storytime was great. Two new songs, one involves jumping up and down. The monkey chases a weasel and pop goes the weasel. What does that mean? Why is the weasel going pop? Why can't the story time lady remember the words to the songs.
One of the moms at story time said she got her bar and had just started working two days a week at a law firm. Her face had that glow of freedom. I know I get it when I have some time away from the children and I can focus on my novel or when I'm teaching.
End of story hour we go to the playground. I realize the power of presence as I helped my daughter walk on a thin beam. I felt so present with her there. There was no place else I needed to be. I felt that so strongly and concretely. It was almost an epiphany.
We go to this store to buy water and goldfish crackers. Outside of the store we open the bag and I eat one as my daughter eats one too. Mine taste a little strange. Is that peanut butter? I take the bag from Zazu instinctively I look at the date. Don't know why. The crackers had expired LAST November as in 2007! I was flabbergasted. I went back in the store and I showed the bag to a manager. He shrugged and said.
"Whoa. OK sorry about that. Do you want another one?"
"Yes I do. But why do you have expired food on your shelf?"
"I'm sorry Miss." He takes the old bag and walks to where I got the crackers. He checks and picks up an entire case of expired stuff. He hands me a fresher bag And he walks away. I know you don't give a shit but Dang.
I look on the shelf and find more expired bags. I show it to the next manager and told him the situation. . I get his name. I tell him if my kid gets sick I am going to call you guys and going to call the media. Will you help pay for any medical bills? No. I lectured him a while longer and he remained apologetic saying that it reflected badly on him and that I should call. The security guard had gotten closer to us. As I was leaving I told the cashier who had helped me that the the store was selling expired food. i left the store. What if she had eaten the whole bag without me noticing? What ifs danced before me. She didn't eat the whole bag. She only age half of one and I had made her spit out the piece she had already started to eat. I could have fussed more I guess. I just left with a name and a new bag of chips. My only plan was to watch my girl make sure she is OK and call the media maybe NPR if she did get sick. We were fine. But damn they could not offer any type of reason why the store would have expired food on their shelves.
Going home was quiet sort of since we had to take the bus. Nothing else dramatic happened. I wondered about what happened to the woman. I gray cloud stayed with me worrying about her.