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Monday, June 27, 2011

At the Meraj

1. Mrs. Ada Williams is keeping her grandbaby while her daughter goes to work, she tells me, but she is anxious to go home to Louisiana, soon. She is a small pecan-colored woman with mannish white hair and a slow gait, and every afternoon, ostensibly while the grandbaby is asleep, she walks past my yard to the 7-11 on Norman Bridge Road.

I watch her progress until she disappears into the heat shimmer. The purpose of these trips is to buy one six-pack of Natural Light beer, which is all she can carry -- first in one hand and then the other.

Mrs. Ada Williams has been sleeping on the sofa in her daughter’s apartment since the baby’s birth three months ago because her daughter works days and entertains her boyfriend at night.

I have thought about offering her a ride on these sweltering days, but I wonder what the effect would be on that grandbaby if the lonely woman were able to transport a full case of beer.

2. George’s clothes are stained the color of peanut brittle and the tops of his boots are spattered with whitish, raised spots that could be dried caulk. He drives a ’92 Ford Ranger loaded with second-hand tools, ladders and a shade umbrella that once belonged to a country club patio bar.

I’ve seen him once or twice at the 7-11 buying beef jerky sticks and red soda pop with damp dollar bills from his deep overalls pocket.

But the other day, I heard him speak for the first time, asking the kind Indian lady behind the counter if she wanted the store painted or the windows washed. His voice was full of reedy music and his vowels came from across an ocean or two. As I moved in closer to parse his speech, I caught a freshness like spice, or wind, on his skin.

3. The first time I traded at the 7-11, Rashid swiped my VISA card to pay for the gas I'd pumped and the can of icy Red Bull I was going to gulp as soon as I got back to my car.

“Your name is Gita?” he asked with pleasant surprise. “Are you from India?”

No, I told him apologetically, from Canada, but I did know that mine is one of the most common girl’s names in his home country.

Since that exchange, he and the rest of his family have greeted me with trust and smiles, a sharp contrast to the suspicion they offer everyone else.

The other day, Rashid hired George to put bright yellow lettering on the store’s fa├žade, spelling the name ‘MERAJ,’ and we stood out on the curb smoking together, as if we were old friends or as if I were a visiting, lighter-skinned family member.


Sandra Davies said...

VERY nice indeed - made me smile in a contented sort of way.

Harry said...

Gita you pay attention like a good writer should. I think what makes this piece so good, besides great details like the caulk on George's boots or that Mrs. Ada Williams is pecan colored and likes Natural Light, is that you get involved. It seems so basic to just interact with those around you but that's not really how it goes these days. Great work!