Posts Tagged ‘People Watching’

Jesus at Trilliman’s

July 27, 2011

I saw a man today who looked like the picture of Jesus on my grandmother’s living room wall.  At least the man’s head and shoulders looked like Jesus. The one in Grandma’s picture had on white robes and carried a staff.   This Jesus, the one at the shopping center, had on a Washington Redskins tee shirt and a pair of faded jeans.  He wasn’t wearing sandals.  He had on work boots.   This Jesus carried a backpack and smoked a cigarette. 

 The woman with him could have been an angel.  She was an older lady with solid white hair in tight frizzy curls all over her head, kind of like a halo.  She had nicotine stains between the index and second fingers on her right hand and her white cotton print dress was torn at the neckline.  Her black knee socks were rolled down to the tops of her hiking boots.  She sat with Jesus at one of the two tables in front of Trilliman’s, an upscale bakery and sandwich shop.  I overheard them talking about the hot weather as they shared the cigarette.

I was in my car at the curb, waiting for a prescription to be filled at the drug store.  I watched and listened to the couple.  Their presence reminded me of my childhood and the importance my grandparents placed on Jesus and going to church.  I had this sensation that I might hear the gospel, be lifted up in prayer, or feel the spirit rise in me.  It was one of those moments that made me feel like an epiphany was about to occur right before my eyes. This sighting was somehow important.  In my head, I heard my Grandma say, “Listen child, God speaks through angels.  Jesus walks among us.” 

I seemed to be the only one whose gut was reacting though.  People walked by, not paying attention to this vision.  Shoppers were busy with their errands and deadlines.  They hurried, shifting packages from one hand to another, children from one hip to another.  Mothers and daughters leaned together in conversation about summer styles and colors.  People gathered at the bus stop and looked at their watches. Even the dogs on leashes didn’t pay attention, and animals are supposed to have a special sense about these things.

Jesus and his angel sat for a time, quiet in their thoughts.  I got out of my car and spoke to the couple.

Jesus smiled and said, “Hi.”

The angel said, “I like your dress.  I used to have one like it.  Where did you get yours?”

I found myself afraid to admit I’d bought it at the second hand store.  I feared she’d think I was lying, but I confessed.  “At Goodwill,” I said.

“I love Goodwill,” she said.  “I got these boots there last week. They’re perfect for walking in the woods.”  

We talked for a few more minutes about mutual bargains we had found before I walked into the drug store to pick up my prescription.  I found a few other items I needed as well, AA batteries, vitamin C, a roll of wrapping paper and a Hershey bar, which I didn’t need, but wanted.  With all of that and my prescription, the total came to $13.13, an omen, I thought.

I went back to my car and looked toward Trilliman’s.  Jesus’ backpack and the angel were still there, but Jesus was gone.  The other table was occupied by a lanky man with a long pony tail.  He had a Boston Red Sox cap pulled down low over his eyes.  Every now and then he’d lift a paper bag to his mouth and drink.  The woman with him was old and had a Kroger shopping cart pulled up close to her.  It was filled with clothes, drink cans, an umbrella, a few plastic bags, tied tightly, and a ceramic flower pot with a small green plant growing in it.  She smiled a toothless grin at her companion as they laughed and talked. 

In a few minutes, Jesus came back with two orange sport drinks.  He loosened the top of one and handed it to the angel.  He sat down, and the four friends enjoyed their refreshments and each other’s company.

I was looking in my purse for my keys when the police car pulled into the space in front of me.  The officer got out and walked up to Jesus, the angel and their friends. 

“You all need to move along now.”

“We’re not bothering anybody,” Jesus said.

“We’re just sitting here,” the angel said.

“Unless you are a paying customer at this establishment,” the policeman said, pointing to Trilliman’s, “you have to move along.”

“Have you seen the prices in there?” Jesus asked.  “Nobody, including you, could afford to eat there.”

“Snooty people too,” the angel said, “turn their noses up when you walk in.”

“I can’t help any of that,” the policeman said. “I have to enforce the rules.  If you aren’t a paying customer, you have to leave.”

“I’m going to have a talk with the one in charge,” the lady with the shopping cart said. “He will take care of everything.  He won’t have any of this, you’ll see.”

 “Ok,” the officer said .  “But until I hear from him, I have to ask you to leave the premises.”

 The four trespassers gathered their belongings and walked south toward McLean Boulevard.   The old lady with the cart got some help from the angel when they had to maneuver the curb drops.

There’s another sidewalk café called Pop’s two blocks away.  It’s a bigger place with more tables.  Jesus led the way.

Eyes at the Elevator

January 29, 2011

Their eyes caught and held me, all four pairs of those eyes, big, round, searching, and scared. Maybe I was reading into them, maybe not.  The four children stood with their parents at the elevator in the nursing home, waiting for the doors to open.  As I met their gazes, each of the children looked down, as did their mother. The father didn’t. He glared, stern-faced, like he was daring me to continue eye contact.

I put on my best smile and gave a cheerful, “Hello, how are you today?”

“Fine,” he said, and looked away, dismissing me to frown up at the numbers above the elevator door.

Each of the children carried a package.  The boy, older and taller than the girls, held a bucket of fried chicken, the oldest girl, a sheet cake with “Happy Birthday Dad” written in grocery store script across it.  One of the girls clutched a Kroger bag, and the smallest one, about four, carried a plastic bag with plates, plastic utensils, napkins and cups. The mother carried a large black purse. The father gripped a French bread baguette.

I beamed, and clasped my hands together. “Wow, a traveling party,” I said, looking at the birthday cake.

The smallest girl looked up at me and said, “It’s Grandpa’s birthday. We brought Hazard.” She pointed at her mother’s purse.

“Hazard?” I asked.  

“Our dog,” she whispered, barely smiling .

“We called to make sure he could visit,” the father interjected. “We follow rules.”

“We love dogs here,” I said, smiling at the little girl. “Dogs and children.” I winked at her.

The mother unzipped the end of her purse and a small, black nose stuck out. “He’s a miniature Doberman Pinscher,” she said.

“He’s beautiful,” I said, reaching out to pet his head.

“Push the button,” the man barked at his wife.

“I did,” she said, pushing the button repeatedly and staring at it, like she was wishing her touch could make it work.

“Are there steps in this place?” The husband snapped.  

“Sure, right around the corner here,” I said leading the way, the man following me.

He stood over my shoulder as I punched the code into the alarm and opened the door for the family to pass through.  They descended the stairs one at a time as the man stood over the group, wielding his baguette.

I followed them downstairs, and when I passed Mr. Eldridge’s room, the smallest girl looked up from where she stood in a corner of the room. She smiled at me and gave a small wave before the door clicked shut.

The Corner of Angus and Emmet

March 27, 2010

The locals roll up their windows and stare straight ahead. Most ignore her presence. Some taunt or curse her. Catherine sits in a wheelchair on the corner of Angus and Emmet, on the same side of the street as the Kentucky Fried Chicken. She parks exactly fifteen feet from the bus stop, right there at the traffic light.  In summer, she wears a cotton duster. In winter, she wears a cotton duster.

Catherine  rolls out early on Tuesday morning, half a bucket of Saturday’s popcorn secured in her lap by a bungee cord stretched across the armrests of her wheelchair.  There’s a hill just at the end of Angus and she needs both hands to hold back the wheelchair from careening into southbound traffic.  Emmet is a busy highway.  She has mastered the incline that leads  to the sidewalk where she sits. Maneuvering is only difficult when someone at the beauty shop remembers to turn on the sprinklers the night before and the grass is wet. Even if she struggles, no one helps her.

Traffic picks up about 7:15.  Catherine  allows herself fifteen minutes to park and settle.  She adjusts her seating and the distance from the curb to the exact inch.  The 6:55 Blue Line bus heading downtown is on time.  Catherine smiles. She hates it when the bus is late and interrupts her start time.

Her schedule dictates she man her station Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. sharp until 2:30 in the afternoon. She takes a break, but it’s never during lunch hour. The traffic is heavy then. She would miss opportunities.  The movie theater manager allows her to use the bathroom, because she buys an extra large tub of popcorn and sometimes a drink if it’s hot. She never buys a ticket, only refreshments. The cost is budgeted into her monthly expenses.  Her disability check comes a few days after the third of the month, because her birthday is on the third of October.

She watches and waits for the first red light after 7:00.  The light is green. She waits. It turns yellow and she counts the five seconds until red.  Bingo.  There sitting before her is a blue station wagon.  She reaches into the tub and takes out one piece of popcorn, holding it between her thumb and index finger. She lifts it,  closes one eye, aims, and throws the kernel at the passenger window of the car.  She repeats this action until she hits the center of the window or until the light turns green. Sometimes the window is open and she scores points.  When she misses her mark, she curses loudly starting with “Damn!”   If she misses again, “Double Damn!”  Again, “Triple Damn!”  Then, on to, “Son of a Bitch!”  And on those days when the wind is blowing, she sometimes  finishes with a resounding, “Fuck!”

The locals know her.  Tourists don’t.  At 10:35,  a red BMW is the target.  The passenger is a boy. His father is driving.  Catherine aims and hits her mark.  The electric window slides down.  “Stop that,” the man says.

Catherine aims again, for points this time.  She throws and misses.  “Damn!” she says.

“Hey,” the man yells, “what’s wrong with you?”

She aims again, throws, no points. “Double Damn!” She says.

“Lady, shut up and stop it,” the man yells, his face turning red. “Can’t you see a kid’s in here?”

The wind picks up.  Catherine aims again, throws and misses.  “Triple Damn!” She says.

The man turns on his flashers, puts the car in park, and gets out.  He stomps to the sidewalk and yells, “You crazy old bat. What kind of example are you setting for  children? Don’t you have anything better to do?”  He picks up her bucket of popcorn and dumps it on the sidewalk, slamming the empty tub back into Catherine’s lap.

“Son of a Bitch!”  Catherine says, as the man stomps back to his car and peels off.

She turns her wheelchair around and pulls the hill to the movie theater.  It opens every day at 11:00.  She enters the door with the empty bucket, a full bladder and $4.00 in crumpled bills.

If she hurries, she can make it back down the hill before the lunchtime rush.