Updated: Nov 7, 2018
After a nice yoga workout, I went to the store to buy bananas, almond milk and freshly cut bread from the expensive store. Since plastic bags are banned in our province, I always have the roll-up fabric ones handy. Inside the straps of the mat was a purple one to remind me of openness, intuition, third eye.
From the alley, only a few blocks away from home, a skinny, barefooted woman approached me. We were about the same age, but that was about the only thing we had in common. She wore tired red and black silky underwear. The type that has the bra part attached to the flared skirt. When she raised her hand with the high-heel tiger-patterned shoe so I could see the sole got torn away. "I need some glue," she said, "...to fix my shoe."
Usually, homeless men in front of the grocery stores annoy me, especially after paying municipal taxes and religiously contribute to Women in Crisis funds. My annoyance with the homeless sprouted from their treating animals. In fact, I have reported some homeless people having their dogs with them all day long on cold winter days to anti-animal cruelty and so on. “My bad, I didn’t stop at the Hardware store - I don't have glue," I said and when I saw desperation on her face I added: "I'm sorry.”
Without looking at the purple shopping bag, she weirdly asked: "I'm really hungry, I need something to eat." It came from a different place than those of the homeless people in front of the stores. To them, I want to say “If you want me to give you something you can at least put that cup down, get off your ass and open the door for me.” Her asking was different, as if a piece of bread would give her hope to hang on until she gets someone who can fix her shoe problem.
First I gave her a banana then feeling spoken to, I untied the bag and handed her three slices of yellow, fresh smelling, but costly bread. Quickly she put the banana into her purse and took the bread, her fingers treasured the softness thereof, something like a memory lit a flame deep inside of her and sparkled off her eyes. "I love you," she said.
When I got home I walked past the parcel on my doorstep, opened the closet and then rushed back to the corner of the street, hoping that the woman in her red and black underwear would still be there. She was. "Here's glue for your shoes, hope that helps and allow me to fix you up with clothes?” The purple bag now had a dress, sweatpants and energy bars. "I don't need three pairs of sandals,” I said. She slipped on the sandals, I simply did not show the courage to let her take out the clothes and give me back my purple, roll up bag.
“You’re a mommy to me,” and with a final “I love you," she turned away her body from us, strolling to wherever and whatever the next stop might be. I stood there empty-handed, but for the key. Inside our cosy apartment, I once again ignored the parcel, ran a bath with lavender essence and lit candles instead. Did she have any idea that my dreams to be a mommy were crashed period after period, a monthly ritualistic disappointment?
I scrubbed and scrubbed as if I were the one on the corner of the street asking for glue. I so badly wanted to wash off the street, the dirt from my body and eradicate the red-and-black-underwear-lady’s words from my mind. “I love you…you a mother to me…I love you…” That’s all I wanted to be, but not a mommy for her. I wanted to be a real mommy, I wanted to hold our baby in my arms, feed her, teach him to say…I love you, Mommy. Then I cried and cried until the bath water turned cold.
Later that evening my partner and I opened the parcel and there it was, two copies of Journaling Through Infertility. A guided self-help journal for women faced with the challenge of conceiving. The illustration on the cover summarized the nature of the struggle. While my partner took up a pencil I only read through mine, without starting the journaling part. One of the chapters was named: TRIGGER POINTS. “The people who trigger us to feel negative emotion are messengers. They are messengers for the unhealed part of our being. [Teal Swan]”
Did the read-and-black underwear woman mirrored what I felt like inside? In the months to come, the journal became our soulmate, gave direction as in how to face challenges, guided us through our evening writings. Lengthy talks followed and we grew close to each other. We replaced the hurt and franticness with a deepened understanding of communicating self-care to ourselves and to the other.
During our pregnancy with the first child, I would often think of that one angelic encounter. How badly did I need to hear “I love you, you are a Mother to me?” on exactly the same day the journal-order came by mail? I learned to embrace my body, to wash off the dirt of the streets, to value the soft texture and aroma of the artisan’s freshly baked bread. But for that one encounter, I never saw the read-and-black-underwear woman who looked for the glue to fix her shoe again. In the years to follow through, the children would sometimes take a banana from the green roll-up bag and give that to the homeless man holding his cup in front of a store.
Inspired by a true story.