I was in my head, my hood, my music, when a honking car blasted me back to the real world. I looked up to see an old woman standing on top of a manhole, in the middle of the icy street. Her lips were moving, but no words came out. The sun set her snow-white hair on fire. My heart lurched in the cold. I stepped off the sidewalk, walked over, introduced myself and said hello.
She answered, Lysanne.
Our eyes met and I felt her glow.
Cars wove around us, freezing birds cried overhead. Lysanne let me hold her hand and slip my arm around her waist. We crossed the busy street together in slow motion, every step, a first.
Are you lost?
Her lips didn’t move, but I swear I heard a faint whisper, yes.
She pointed to a house behind us, which I hoped was her home. Arm-in-arm, we climbed the steep stairs to the front door, rang the bell and scared a boy, who had no clue who this dazed, old woman was, home alone for the first time. As we started our descent, I told her not to look down.
The frozen wind whipped. I passed my hands over her trembling body, looking for clues, and she let me. Neither of us had a cell so I tried to flag down a car. A panicking woman screeched off when I signalled that we needed help. Why are we so scared of each other? I drew Lysanne closer to my heart.
A stocky man pulled over in a beat-up car, told us his name and gave me the chance to explain. Together, we maneuvered the old woman into the warm den of his front-seat, shared a laugh and called the police. She spoke once, I know dementia, when Nick mentioned the word.
The cops took her back to her senior residence up the street, promising to alert the people in-charge. Nick and I turned to each other, it was time to leave. Our eyes met and it struck me that I loved him and maybe he loved me, too, because neither one of us wanted to say good-bye.
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GOOD NEWS FLASH: Early this morning, an 85 year-old man was hit by a truck. As I write these words, he is back from the hospital and doing the crossword, across from me in the café. We people are fragile, yes, but oh so much stronger than we know.
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