Archive for the 'old women' Category

in the cafe’s backyard

In the bright sun, an old man reads the opening pages of the Brothers Karamazov, then splays the book on the table. He’s got a cupcake the size of a softball in front of him. He slices off the bottom half with great care, breaks it up, and lobs the crumbs a few feet off to his side, as if to feed some invisible animals.

At the other end of the yard, an old woman in a grand sun hat and giant sunglasses whistles birdcalls into the bushes. After a while, she looks up and catches me watching. “Did you happen to find a cell phone?” I shake my head no. “That’s too bad,” she says. “I lost mine.”


in the cafe

Three old women sit down a few tables away. Their faces are still as masks, their wide eyes look right through me.

down the block

There’s a round woman who sits all day on her stoop. She’s the age of a young grandmother, maybe. She’s round and she smiles and watches the people cross her view. When I pass by I always say hello to her. She looks at me for a long moment, and then the corner of her eyes crinkle and she squeaks a kiss at me. It feels like a blessing.

on the avenue

Three men with flags led a parade of old ladies clutching lilies and a motley brass band sweating a dirge from their horns. They trailed along behind a statue of Jesus on the back of a pickup truck. I asked one of the old ladies, she waved a hand encircling the scene and said, “It’s holy.” As if that explained everything.

in the morning

Everyone knows the heat is coming. The children are already wilted. The old ladies are smoking cigarettes on the sidewalks, wearing frowns and housedresses.

on a corner (recalled)

She had a queen’s posture and silver hair and was much too elegant to be lost. She stopped us on a corner in the part of the city where the grid goes haywire, asked us if we knew where a certain restaurant was.

“I don’t know, but my phone might know,” said my friend (this was before such things were commonplace).

“Really,” she marveled, taking her time with the word. “Would you ask it for me?”

He did, and after a while we found the restaurant for her, half a block from where we stood. She introduced herself as though we ought to know her name and admonished us to come to her current show. She was, it turned out, quite famous once. We never did go.

on the subway

I’ve seen them before. They are old and weathered and small. He has the permanent grin of a village idiot, even his eyes smile. She is stern, stares back at me, officiously rearranges the contents of her purse.

at dean & deluca (recalled)

There was an old woman dressed in red and gold, her hair like yesterday’s spun sugar. Her hands were gnarled with arthritis, curled like claws. She ate a raspberry jam cookie, resting from time to time as if some part of consuming the treat had cost her effort. A young man in a blue blazer came in, and she was momentarily captivated. Maybe he was a ghost to her, someone from her youth, or maybe she had never stopped looking wistfully at young men. When she packed up to leave, she stopped a hip Asian guy with bleached hair and asked if he knew the buses in the neighborhood. He didn’t.

on the subway

An early train, everyone quiet. There was a tall fat man with a cheap cane, worried eyes. A young man leaned against the pole, trying to suppress the inward, private smile that kept overtaking his face. An older woman with veiny hands noticed a small stain on her pink pants, touched it as though that might give her new information, then moved her purse to conceal it. She read over my shoulder for a while, and then her head dropped down into sleep. The smiler got off at 14th St, the fat man at 34th. The dozing woman kept dozing all the way up the line.

on the bus (recalled)

I was riding the bus back from the beach. At a bus stop in front of an old drugstore, out near the end of Flatbush, I saw a black girl in a bridesmaid’s dress, her hair upswept and laced with flowers. Next to her stood a stooped old white woman, with impossible red hair and the kind of outlandish, improper makeup that suggests both innocence and insanity. The old woman looked up at the tall girl, dazzled, reaching out her reedy hand to touch the girl’s arm. The girl looked at her, and as my bus began to pull away, I could read the woman’s exaggerated lips: “You look so beautiful.”