She settles on the bench with great effort
Her legs will not see long and lean again
She places her purse aside her on the bench catching her breath
Then eyeing the purse and her environment
The purse’s perch shifts to right under her arm
She cannot afford to lose the few bills meant to bring her through the month.
Nor can she afford to lose her day’s prescription tightly sealed in the weekly pill-box.
One hand wanders to the thin see through scarf checking its placement
She knows the sheer material does not hide the thinned spots exposing the skin of her crown
When the wind whips up the street making the litter dance, she pulls her jacket tightly over her chest.
Her chin tucks down and becomes hidden in the oversized collar.
Another comes along and sits beside her.
Old and cloudy eyes cut to the side and notice the smile playing upon the lips of the girl beside her.
Her head cocks at the smile, bringing her features fully outside of the warmth and safety of her coat’s collar.
Hands cursed with a permanent shake, she uses her pinky finger to push her glasses further across the bridge of her nose.
The girl widens her smile, seeing the old woman’s interest now piqued.
The woman produces a sudden cough to clear a throat abused by Pall Mall’s for decades
Breath now caught once more, a raspy voice wafts up from the small wrinkled form
The woman’s face appears eager and hopeful
Knowing full well she is not this woman’s Jenny
The girl purses her lips and gives a small, “hmm?”
“Is that you Jenny, lord knows I’ve not seen you in years? How’s your mother, well I pray?”
The girl cocks one perfectly arched eyebrow considering the woman’s words.
The man digging in the garbage can a few feet off turns for a moment
Shaking his head knowing the old bat is quite touched, this scene he’s seen a thousand times before.
The girl ignores the shaking head a dismissive hand gesture she gives, scooting across the bench.
Her hands dart forward to lay upon the woman’s.
Her thumbs gently rub across thin fragile skin painted with liver spots
The woman at first startled is suddenly calmed by the slight gesture
The girl leans in and plants a small kiss upon the high brow before lowering her gaze to the woman’s eyes
“I’ve missed you terribly and am so glad you recognized me”
The woman offers a thin-lipped smile that boasts, just the hint, of full dentures.
She leans in closer speaking in the raspy voice, “I knew it was you, and your mother?”
The girl drops her head a moment and whispers, “She’s passed, several years now.”
The old woman tsk’s and draws her tongue across the front of her dentures
Once more reality hits her reminding her of how old she is. The only one left now from the old days.
The girl bows her head and to the side looking at the woman, “Where are you headed too?”
The woman returns the girl’s gaze, her confusion evident.
“I’ve forgotten. Oh no, no I haven’t- the bus, I am waiting on the bus.”
The girl accepts this response and offers another query, “The bus to where?”
Once more the old woman confused, unable to remember where it is she is to be.
The girl sits silently still caressing the cold hands outlined by veins.
She notes the woman’s mental process and offers a destination.
The old woman seems to regain some vigor as her chin lifts a touch higher.
“Yes, Home. Down by City Hall”
The girl takes in the information quietly appraising and recalling what lay along the streets in that area.
Before the girl can answer the woman speaks again.
“I have to hurry or that damned Butchy will take my spot under the best tree, ya know”
The girl nods having known since sitting that this woman is lost in destination and spirit.
Wanting to be this woman’s Jenny filled with light and grace
She stands and points just down the street.
“No, we live down there. I just came out to find you and bring you home.”
The woman looks happy to hear she has a home but struggles to lift herself from the cold metal bench.
Her Jenny steps lightly, one hand wraps the old woman’s waist.
“Don’t worry I have you now.”
The girl did not think twice about the gift she was about to give
Nor did she know it was her kindness that would allow the old woman to live.
When finally they made it to Jenny’s front stoop, the old woman’s shoulders began to droop.
The house was unfamiliar but much more inviting than the doorway of an abandoned building
She mustered her strength and pushed with her will. Realizing now this was not her Jenny.
Jenny paid no heed to the brief flash of cognizance that crossed the woman’s eyes.
She simply placed her hand in the small of her back and eased her up the stairs.
Neither looked back and nor did they care.
Both lives were saved on that cold winter’s day.
The love of Jenny and the old woman in grey.
~Dedicated to the Homeless who sleep in the City Hall Square in Baltimore and across the world~
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