THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2010
Synchronicity To The Rescue!
On Park and 82nd St, I heard and imperious-if slightly cracked- voice say: "Young Woman! You! The Pretty One! Come here and help me across the street!"
I turned around, and there was a tiny, elderly woman, about the size and build of a capuchin monkey. She had a sort of modified shopping cart that she was using as a walker, and was very well dressed. But she was having trouble seeing over the top of her improvised walker, let alone WALKING. So I said "Of course, madam", took her arm--"not THAT way!" she growled; obviously this was a well rehearsed drill for her---and led her across the street. She issued instructions and commands the entire time. She was a little like Captain Blight in a robin's egg blue twin set. (Cashmere.)
She had stepped a little too far into traffic for my comfort, so I stopped, in order to holde her back a bit, as Buicks (ARE there still Buicks?) went whizzing past our noses, too close for comfort. She yanked at my arm.
"Young woman", she said, "I may be old, but I am not, as many young people think, a complete idiot. I would NOT walk into traffic. Not being gaga."
"Of course," I said. "It was a reflective instinctual thing."
She smiled, as though she was pleased with her ability to choose escorts. "Good vocabulary", she said, and smiled at me, just a tiny bit. Then she went back to issuing orders.
Feeling more sympathy for Fletcher Christian than I ever had previously, I tried to divert her with questions. Also, I was interested. She was a salty, upper class pirate, and I liked her.
"I have parents who are older, and they're still smarter than I am, so it's not likely that I'd assume you're bats. Or dopey. Is this slang dated?"I grinned at her.
She smiled contentedly, after making sure my arm was properly adjusted and secure for her clinging comfort. "I was the head nurse at (Rutgers?) Hospital. I was there when they did the first kidney transplant. Now THAT was a thing." She stopped and closed her eyes to remember, I pulled her out of the way of a speeding noncognizant limo. She didn't notice. She was thinking of the splendor of that moment.
"Were you a nephrology nurse? Did you know my uncle, Dr. Bricker? The famous nephrologist?"
She opened her eyes fast-and wide, as she realized we were in traffic--and skedaddled a bit as she asked,"Dr. NEAL Bricker? HE's your UNCLE?"
I smiled with pleasure. "Yup. And he's your age, and he and his amazing wife are TWICE as smart as I am, so no more prejudices about young 'uns, please."
We chatted some more. She had gone back to school and become a psychologist; written a book about breast cancer -"I wanted to call it "Renaissance", but the goddamn publisher said [here she adopted a mocking tone in sing song} "No one will KNOW what that MEANS, Yvonne!" She snorted in indignation, something I have not seen in person very often. "So they called it "You've Got A Friend." Another snort.
"You will pardon me saying so on such short acquaintance, " I said, "but that title somehow doesn't seem very...YOU."
She turned her pretty blue eyes towards me sideways, as if acknowledging reluctantly that I might be capable of cogent reasoning."No. It isn't."
We kept walking.
She said, "Okay, here's the UPS Store. We're going in here for a minute. You're coming with."
At this point, having smelled a whiff of distillery and juniper on her breath, I wasn't going to leave her by herself. I resigned myself to being late for class. "Okay," I sighed.
The men in the UPS store were more than kind to her- they were downright saintly gentleman.
While she was watching them Xerox stuff for her, she took to reminiscing. "My husband was a trombone player and a violinist, you know."
I said, startled, "Simultaneously?"
She looked at me sideways again for a moment, and then allowed herself to laugh.
:No, one at a time..." she said.
"Pity. He could been in vaudeville." I was funnin' her.
"Actually, he played for the house band at The Chase (?) Hotel, Played with Nat King Cole...Sophie Tucker..."
"NAT KING COLE?? He's my RINGTONE!" I cried, pulling out my phone and making it ring. Instantly it played King singing "Stardust."
"Sophie Tucker...now THERE was an unexpected broad." she said. "But you won't know who she is.
"Smile when you challenge me o showbiz trivia, Yvonne," said I. I then quoted some of Sophie' act to her.
She hooted with delight. "Yes! That's her! But you know, the damnedest thing..."
"What?" I asked, because she was drifting a bit.
She snapped to. "The damnedest thing is that, if you talked to her offstage, she had a very polished Back Bay accent. [She did a credible imitation of a lock-jawed Eastern pedigree girl.]
To me, Sophie was known for her thick New Yawk accent and vulgarity (funny vulgarity)--to hear that she was a tea drinking grande dame was causing me some trouble. So I said, "I'm going to sit down next to you, and process the cognitive dissonance. Oh...may I see your ring?"
She was wearing a Claddagh ring. I have one-it was the last ring my ex gave me--and I have been looking for it for days. It is two small hands holding one heart, and means "I will be faithful to you always, my one true love."
"I have a ring just like that" I said, turning her hand to examine the ring.
"Oh? You know what it means, then?" she asked. She was looking at me with sudden kindness in her face.
"Yes. Yes I do. It's a lovely sentiment."
I stood up. "Oh they're done. Shall we?"
Another series of complicated maneuvers got Yvonne, her rolling cart, me and and umbrella decanted onto the street intact. "I'm going to get a cab," she said.
"I'll help," i said. Another 20 minutes of maneuvering later, I put her into a taxi, gently. She said "Thank you , dear. You are kind. Remind me to tell you my favorite Neal story sometime." She started to close the door.
Then she opened it a bit and said "Hey! Young lady!"
I turned back for a moment. "Yes, Yvonne?"
She eyed me sharply. "What happened to your ring?"
I stood in a puddle, and thought about a photo I'd seen that day, that had changed my life a little.
"Well, young lady?"
I held up my two hands, ringless and manicured. "It's gone," I said. "It's gone." I smiled. "And I think I've just stopped looking for it. There are other rings. But yours is lovely. Goodnight."
She pulled the door to, and the cab sped away. She was going to the fire dept to complain about something, and had brought a "photo of my Daddy in his fireman's uniform in St Louis." she had confided. "That'll make em sit up and take notice. No one listens when you're old, young lady. So I bring props."
I walked a few blocks, already late to class, and already not caring. I ahd read in the Times this morning about 100 year olds and what had helped them stay alive, with joie de vivre, so long.
One woman said "Just put it behind you. Th past is the past. There's always better stuff in front of you. Never look back. Just don't." The other centenarians agreed. "Don't look back. Have fun. Don't dwell on the bad stuff. Look ahead."
I smiled, thinking about the article, and the cranky and vivacious lifeforce I had just bottled into a cab. Who showed me her ring, my same ring, and knew my uncle, who lives 3000 miles away, by first name. Who demanded my help and received it: exactly what I am trying to learn how to do in my own life, in so many ways.
Who might or might not have been "my sign", but who made me happy, as helping someone always does. As self forgetting in a good way, does. As I went off towards Sutton Place to my class, I thought "just keep looking forward...something better's coming", and thoght about the way the centanarians had repeated that, and thought about how it is what I'm going to be doing, from this step and that step on. Depite F. Scott Fitzegerald's seductively nihilistic sentnce" "And so we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past,,"...I resolved, with each step, not to be swayed by his lyrical, liquid romntics, And to be a better boat. And go forward.
I walked on through the darkening air. And I sang "Stardust"- not softly, not loudly, but just loud enough for my own soul to hear it. Just that loud. "Sometimes I wonder, why I spend the lonely night/dreaming of a song/a melody/haunts my reverie/and I am once again with you..."
And I thought, "let's save the sadness for the singing and the songs, yes? Put drama on the stage where it belongs." Something in me lifted and flew free. I walked, and sang, and said "goodnight" to the sleepy windows I was passing, and felt my heart, at last, settle cozily back into the nest it had fled from, in June.
Goodnight, city. Goodnight, Yvonne. And Yvonne?