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Lifetakes: Blessed Calm

Bracha Levenstein

I’m crowded in, between Perfect Red Stroller, Empty Gray Stroller, Navy-capped Official, and my own unfocused thoughts

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock

Ileave my house late. But I am calm. Down stone stairs. Left. Left again. I know this walk to the bus stop well. Familiarity soothes me, and midmorning wraps an encouraging arm around my shoulders, the air thick and yellow with sunlight filtering through a haze of matted clouds. It will be fine.

Quick bus ride. Short walk. Seemingly interminable wait for another bus while I note that my cell phone is dead. But I don’t need to check the time obsessively, or feverishly solve mathematical equations whose answers tell me how many minutes and seconds late I probably will be….
When the bus arrives, there is standing room only. I wedge myself between an empty battered gray stroller and a familiar face I meet by chance, and she is wearing a watch. I smile and ask for the time, and I do the math while chatting.

I’m inside my head, thinking distractedly, hoping, hoping. A navy-capped officer heads toward me, scanning bus cards proffered by so many outstretched hands. He returns my friend’s card, she thanks him, and her words float over his head, out the open door. He doesn’t care. I say nothing.

Speed up. Sudden uncomfortable lurch. Doors open. A woman wheels her baby’s perfect red stroller onto the bus. I’m crowded in, between Perfect Red Stroller, Empty Gray Stroller, Navy-capped Official, and my own unfocused thoughts. 

There is no warning. The official lets loose with a shocking harangue directed at the owner of Empty Gray –– “Why isn’t this folded? How thoughtless! She needs a place!” he shouts, bony hand waving at Perfect Red Stroller. “She wants someplace to stand!” Now he is waving at me. Well, he's right.

Unexpected empathy floods me as I watch a young woman come forward. Shy, embarrassed, she has no words, but maneuvers through the crowd to collapse the offending gray piece of equipment. I look on, sorry for her predicament, sorry to have witnessed it, sorrier still to have exacerbated her censure. 

I am five minutes late. The doctor calls me in without commenting about the time. She wonders aloud if the biopsy results are ready, and I am laughing inside my head because I learned that they were ready two endless days ago. She scrolls calmly through files, looking for the answer that will either tell me I am sick, or that I am healthy and able to begin the hormonal treatments I’ve been waiting a lifetime for. 

And just like that, she tells me it’s fine. We are lost in a host of details about monitoring and future ultrasounds, and I am there and on the bus and in so many places all at once. My step is light. Into a shop. Peruse skirts, dresses, scarves I don’t plan to buy, reveling in relief. And back to the bus stop. 


It’s her.


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