The wind has a bite to it, and sharp teeth, too. I slam my car door before another gust hits, crank up the heat, and nose out of the parking lot with a million things on my mind, and too few hours in the day.
The light turns red and I curse. I’m already late, and this light is so damn long — it’s the longest light in the city. The light’s not triggered by traffic, but I roll my car forward anyway, seething with impatience.
Out the passenger window I watch as a woman wearing a long blue scarf leaves the bank, stops, turns, and walks back the way she came, pausing in front of a bundle of blankets on the sidewalk.
The bundle moves, and a woman’s face peeks out, nearly camouflaged against the mud-coloured siding of the bank.
The woman in the blue scarf crouches down, leans in and begins talking. I can’t hear her. I so badly wish I could hear her. She’s smiling and nodding her head. The woman she speaks with looks up.
The woman in the blue scarf reaches up and unwinds it, grabbing hold of it tightly in the wind. She leans forward and wraps the blue scarf carefully over the shoulders of the woman on the sidewalk. The scarf, still warm, probably smells of perfume.
The woman in the blankets puts her head down, wraps her hands around her knees, and starts to cry. I can tell she’s crying by the rise and fall of her back, by the way her shoulders shake. That’s the way my children look when they cry. That’s the way I look.
The woman who gave the scarf, leans forward, takes her hands, and holds on tight. The light turns green, and I drive away, staring at the pair on the sidewalk in my rearview mirror until I turn a corner.
Cool, with a taste of spring, it’s light jacket weather. I’m jogging my usual route, and I’ll be home in half an hour – just in time for dinner.
I see them at a fork in the path and they make an odd trio. The older man stands several feet away, hands in his pockets, running shoes scuffing the ground as though anxious to get moving. Off to his left stands an elderly grandmother-type with a leashed Chihuahua perched on her shoulder like a bug-eyed, panting parrot.
She stands and smiles down at a boy — a teenager, by the size of him. His back rests against a light post; his face is hidden inside his jacket, which is zipped so high only his mop of black hair pokes through. He’s slumped forward, arms crossed over his knees. She stands at his side, chatting, and looks up to smile at me, waving me on as I slow down. The boy needs help. He needs someone to notice him, to speak to him, to care about him. The woman with the Chihuahua smiles at me as if to say, “it’s OK. I’ve got this. You go.”
Weakness is walking away from people who need help. It’s hard to stop, and harder still to know what to say, or do, being more afraid of saying and doing the wrong thing, than of doing nothing at all. I’m ashamed to admit having walked away.
Perhaps someday I’ll have a blue scarf to give, and be brave enough to be so compassionate.