Synchronicity II

 

alisa rynay haller

Synchronicity II (Capstone Challenge)

 

The call came at midnight, the homeless and the lost were to be rounded up and imprisoned, if they put up a struggle they would be shot or clubbed to death, it mattered not to the police, these derelicts were little better than trash in their eyes.

The message was passed from one vagabond to the next, it spread like fire through the French Quarter, if any of the homeless had been asked how they knew this they would not say, this underground railroad speak went back generations to the days of slavery. A pant leg rolled up twice on the left meant “friend”, a quilt with three triangles dangled from a clothesline meant “someone is missing”, slapping a knee five times meant “run”, the drums of the slums beating the tune of five on this night sounded like the tribal drums of long ago, and those that could simply ran.

The skinny woman with missing teeth and nothing but fear in her life ran to the Square, if she was isolated and could stop talking to herself she may be passed by, maybe the lawmen would think she was just waiting for someone. She sat down out of breath on a bench on the cobblestone street, it was bitterly cold, she had no sweater and she had no fat, maybe it would be a blessing to spend the night in a cell instead of slowly freezing to death in her sleep, or maybe death would be a blessing, the others in her head were confused on that matter.

There were two other women in the Square when she arrived, they looked like a Mother and Daughter, dressed too nice to be like her, but still out far too late to be safe. The two women did not even notice her, they too were cold and huddled together for warmth, she wished she could join them, an unwanted visitor in their lives but oh she needed warmth, and they both looked so loved, she wanted to be a part of that, she thinks she was once, before the voices took over.

A Tall Woman dressed in black joined the two women, she spoke to the Mother, held her hands, the Tall Woman was saying something to the Mother, she couldn’t hear what, she just knew the Mother was crying. It must have been a happy cry because when the Tall Woman was done speaking the Mother gave her a big hug, a kiss on the cheek, they were indeed blessed. The Tall Woman walked away and the pair sat back on the bench for awhile, they were laughing and crying, and then the Mother noticed the skinny cold crazy woman all alone on the bench at the end of the Square.

The pair got up and came over to Sophie (that was her birth name, she remembers that much) and they say “Hello”. Sophie tries to disappear into the wrought iron bench but the pair won’t let her. The Mother and Daughter take off all of their jackets and sweaters and hands them to Sophie, and Sophie takes them. As she pulls coat after coat over her shivering body the Mother hands Sophie a one hundred dollar bill. “Take this, go sleep somewhere safe tonight”..

“I cain’t lady, I don’t know you”..

“It doesn’t matter, I’ve held onto this bill all night so I could give it to someone who needs it more than I do, and you look like that person.” Sophie cannot believe her luck, she has just been given a second chance tonight, she can only stare at them both, a mother and daughter holding hands. They are leaving, and Sophie stands up and shouts “Merci `etranger”, and the Mother looks back with a smile on her face. The smile tells Sophie that to this Mother there are no such things as strangers, just friends not yet met, and Sophie finds herself smiling too.

“Mom, why do you do this everytime we go on vacation?” the Daughter asks.

“Well sweetheart, I was homeless myself just before you were born, and I had to rely on the kindness of strangers to keep me and the dog fed and sheltered, and I never even knew who they were. I guess this is my way of saying “Thank You” to all of those nameless faces. And that Tall Woman? She gave me what I desperately needed and didn’t even ask for a dime.”

The daughter, almost a grown woman, thinks on this. It will only be many years later when she has a daughter of her own who will ask her why she gives money to strangers that she will realize that a tradition was born from this night.

For now, all she knows is that a skinny homeless woman that speaks French has warm clothes to wear and some money for food (or whatever) because her Mom saw something of herself in the woman on the bench in the Square of New Orleans, and she sees her Mom smile. They hold hands as they run to the Hotel, and she can’t help but smile herself, even though she has no idea why.

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