(The word pearl was a prompt given at a writing session. A strong female character came to mind and her story enfolded.)
The last time I saw her, she was young; youth sparkled in her eyes. Now the sparkle is gone, the jade blue color diminished by time; her convictions etched in lines across her face. Her once narrow nose is broader, broken from standing up for others. Her chest sunken with anger, not there the first time we met.
“Pearl is that you?” I inquire.
She strains to turn towards me, her range of motion greatly compromised.
“Yes, I’m Pearl,” Her voice recalls dignity, and she pauses to ask, “Have I had your acquaintance?”
It was 1971; we got on the Concourse Avenue bus in the Bronx, each with a child in hand. She took notice of my bruises and we became friends.
I take the seat alongside her and gently touch her forearm, “Pearl, it’s me Rosa . . . . Rose, remember. . . .” I expect her to ooze with gladness, say, “Lordy, Lordy, Rose, how are you?”
Instead, she says “Rose? Can’t recall a Rose, refresh my memory child.”
If she remembers me, she would never mention beatings, and hiding in safe houses. I remind her of Bainbridge Park; how we would meet after lunch, let the children play in the sand box then walk them to sleep in strollers.
“I remember sunshine and playgrounds, how is your boy . . . ?”
“Danny, Dan, he’s at Fordham University; studying to be a lawyer.
Danny was five when I made the decision to leave the morning after a beating. I phoned my sister, asked her to get him from school, and left a note for John saying I didn’t want a divorce, and wouldn’t fight him for our son.
I worried about leaving Danny behind. Pearl said, “Don’t fret; your boy be fine,” and hooked me up with people.
John was a New York City Police officer and protected by his brothers, but the force would not ignore his beating a child.
Sill, I moved every four months with a new identity.
Three years later, the Richmond Virginia Newspaper reported the hunt for the killer of John McGill, a NYC Police Officer shot in the line of duty. I went home; stood next to his coffin, widowed with a pension; my eight-year-old son at my side.
John had never mentioned I was gone to anyone on the force.
Now Pearl dozes next to me, and her head bobs from side to side startling herself. “What was I saying?”
“We were talking about the time we brought the boys to the Bronx Zoo and rode the train around the park ten times. You packed potato salad and fried chicken; a stranger asked to buy your picnic lunch.”
The mention of potato salad crystallizes in her milky eyes, “I remember the day you left, bruised and wearing borrowed clothes; it broke my heart knowing I’d not see you again. How you been?”
“I never got to thank you, Pearl. . . .” She interrupts my attempt at gratitude and explanation of regret .
“Hush, Woman . . . tell me something that will make me smile.”
* * * just saying
(Originally posted on November 23, 2014)
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