Archive | August 2015

Humanity in an Unexpected Place

Her aged hands shook as she focused in on the bottle precariously held in her left hand. A whisp of gray fell from her forehead covering her eyes as she sighed heavily. I couldn’t help but watch her with curiosity as I moved quietly around her in the theater bathroom. She placed the bottle down upon the counter and pulled out a folding cup from her weathered bag atop a brown battered suitcase. She paid no mind to me as I took longer than usual to wash and dry my clean manicured hands. Worn and full of story, her fingers found the capsule within the bottle and she placed it on her pale tongue. She moved with ease as she filled her cup half full with water and placed it to her dried lips, swallowing the pill without hesitation. I stared at the suitcase through the mirror as I pulled a small brush from my Kate Spade purse. It’s markings were from years of wear and tear, perhaps a discarded piece of luggage from someone no longer wanting it. Its wheels were battered and the material torn in various areas not accustom to being worn. The elderly lady tucked her cup and pill bottle away and from the front pocket of her suitcase, a small tub of tooth paste emerged along with a tooth-brush. I knew I shouldn’t stare, so I averted my eyes as I put my brush away and dismissed myself from the cold, brown walls of the theater bathroom.
What was this woman doing in the theater, I wondered as I stood silently in the lobby of the vacant entertainment hall? Could this woman be homeless, could she be traveling and just killing time before checking into a hotel? Curious, I stood looking at placards in the lobby waiting to see if the old woman would emerge from the restroom. She did. Rolling her bag behind her, step by step she shuffled her feet towards the vending area where she asked for water. The young man behind the counter smiled and asked how she was doing. She forced a smile toward him, trying to make him feel better as he place a cup of water in front of her. He turned slightly and pulled out a small container that housed a wrapped sandwich and a bag of chips.
“My mom made me an extra sandwich tonight. I thought you might like it later.” He pushed the food toward her with a slight hint of a smile. Her hands, those old dry hands, shook slightly as she placed them on the gift.
“You are so kind to me,” she said.
I turned away from the two at the counter and felt my heart-break. She was someone’s child, perhaps mother, sister, wife or grandmother. What was her story… what did it matter? It made me angry, angry at our society, government, families and myself! How could I let this go on and not lift a finger to do anything? I searched my purse for cash, any cash that I could graciously give to this frail eighty-plus year old woman. But I had nothing but a wallet full of credit cards that lay at my beck and call whenever I got the urge to shop. Shaking my head in annoyance, I looked up to see the counter boy looking at me. He smiled as if he knew what I was trying to do.
“Ma’am, your movie is about to start,” he called over to me, “You might like to take your seat.”
I looked at the kind smile that the little lady gave to me as she followed his words across the room.
“Oh, uh… thank you.” I replied hesitantly. I snapped my purse shut and slowly turned towards the movie theater door.
“I’m just going to sit over here for a while and rest my feet, if you don’t mind,” the feeble lady quietly said, as my hand pulled at the door to my movie.
“Not a movie tonight?” the young man responded, smiling and offering her a soft chair over the hard bench she was now resting upon.
“If you think there’s one I might like….” she seemed to perk up.
Quietly, the door I was holding shut behind me, shutting out the conversation I so longed to hear. I couldn’t bare to think that this little old lady was homeless, alone, and trying to find some shelter from the evening heat in this old theater.
The music sounded as I sat down upon my velvet red seat. My daughter smiled toward me and patted my hand as we began our mother-daughter movie outing. I was lucky and I knew it. I had everything I ever wanted in life… love of a great family, enough money to be comfortable, and a wonderful house to call home. As I squeezed my daughter’s hand, I prayed that the little old lady would find some peace tonight within the walls of the theater.
The door opened behind me, spreading light across the chairs and movie screen. Hushed whispers turned heads of patrons already watching the previews. I too, turned to see the late arrivals as they made their way down the darkened aisle. There she was, holding tightly to the counter boy’s elbow as he guided her to a seat just a few rows before me. He placed her food in her lap, and from his shoulder he pulled down a small throw blanket that he placed over her frail body, tucking its loose edges around her legs to keep her from catching cold in the air-conditioned room. I could feel my daughter’s stare as she watched the scene unfold before us. “Isn’t that sweet?” she whispered into my ear. “It must be his grandmother.”
A small tear slid down my cheek as I patted her hand… “It must be.” I whispered back, knowing the truth would break her heart. “She is lucky to have him in her life,” I whispered as the theater darkened and the movie began.
When we rose hours later to leave the theater, I looked over at the little old lady still resting on the red velvet seat. She did not stir, she made no move to leave…perhaps she was asleep or waiting for the boy to aid her…perhaps she found her final peace having felt the kindness of a generous counter boy. I will never know, but I wonder. I wonder every time I see an elderly lady on the street or in a grocery store, or when a homeless person quietly stretches their hand in my direction. They are a reminder that life is too short to be selfish and naive, and that now is the time for me to do something about it. This is for you my Little Theater Woman and counter boy.