“Why is she smiling?” I whispered under my breath to no one in particular nearby. I stood along the cold sidewalk enjoying a smoke as a chubby, yellow-bathrobe-clad lady carrying 4 helium-filled balloons struggled off the bus with some plastic bins. I had seen this particularly woman several times around town, at various hours of the day, and silently realized this woman would make an excellent photo to complete her “photo of a stranger” assignment.
I finished my cigarette. “Can you help me?” the woman, who likes to be called Susy Q, asked, motioning to her bin. And so I helped her carry her bin to the edge of the ferry dock. Taking out her balloons, she handed me a lighter and motioned to her balloons. “Here,” she said, “light this.”
On our way to the ferry dock she told me that it was her husband’s birthday, and that he had died a few years ago. It was also her daughter’s birthday, but she didnt live around here, she said. One of the balloons, I noticed, read “Happy Birthday” and for the first time the presence of the balloons made a little sense.She was asking me to burn the strings of the balloons from the bag it was being held to, and me “only tried to light a lighter twice in my life” that I am, couldnt get it to work. So she tried, but couldn’t get it to work either. “Oh, well,” she said and looked at me, “You ready?” and she threw the balloons over the fence and into the ocean. “Happy birthday my dear husband. Happy birthday my daughter. Happy birthday my dear dear husband.” She said over and over again while waving to the balloons. I leaned over the fence and shot a picture of the balloons.
“Thank for letting me take your picture,” I said smiling at the old woman. “Oh you’re welcome! Thank you for taking it. Here… let me give you something.” And before I could say anything she dug through her bin and handed me some flowers. “Ohhh! Thank you!” I felt truly blessed by this strange homeless lady, and with a last minute thought, “Can I take your picture again?” She smiled and nodded. Taking out her hat again she gave me the happiest smile I had seen that day.
What I felt as a result of this experience was … something stronger than fate, for sure!
Thank you, once again, BEKINDREWRITE! It is such good exercise to write using prompts. I enjoy these weekly jaunts very much!