An Encounter: At the Corner of St. Marks Hotel

It was just a few minutes until midnight, maybe five more minutes. I perched on a handrail next to St. Marks Hotel at St. Marks Place. I am waiting for my cousin and his friend. In front of me is a woman at the bus stop. She is waiting for a bus, I assumed. She looks at me, somewhat suspiciously, as though she wants to know who I am. I meet her eyes and smile politely. She doesn't smile back; she keeps assessing me. I keep smiling and looking around every now and then to see what else was interesting around me. I was feeling amused. Perhaps she is homeless, I thought. But she is clean, I observed. I looked curiously at her shopping cart. It didn't answer my question. Is she crazy? I wondered. She was still looking at me. Would she hurt me? No. I thought. There were several people walking about. I am safe. I kept smiling. "Rat!" She says suddenly, pointing at the stairs next to me. "Rat?" I ask, "Yes!" she replies. "Over there!" she points again. "Really big." she continues. "Ah." I say, still smiling. "I am not afraid." I try to assure her. "Well, I hate them." She replies and says a few things I couldn't catch, but I keep smiling. "They bite, you know?" she tells me. I nod. "I was just at the hospital." She confides, "Really?" I inquired, "You alright?" I ask. "Yes, but I have bad genes." She replies, still looking at
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me carefully as though she was still trying to figure me out. "Bad genes?" I prompted curiously. "Yes." She replies. I have diabetes, ..." and she lists a few other ailments that I can't now recall. "I am so sorry" I tell her. I was sorry for her. "I died and came back," she confides. "Really?" I inquired. "Yes!" She answers and nods affirmatively. "I had two strokes." "Ah! I am so sorry" I tell her again and nod my head sympathetically. "It's okay," she replies, almost smiling for the first time during our conversation.  "I am blessed," she continues as she shows me her necklace. It is a long delicate golden chain with a golden pendant of the crucification. I nod back my understanding. "Yes you are." I agree, still smiling. She nods again, fully smiling now, and goes on, "My mom has all my diseases. She passed it onto me. She had six strokes and she's still alive!"  And "Wow!" was all I could manage. I was thinking about what else to say when my cousin and his friend came back. "It was nice talking to you." I tell her, sincerely.  She nods. I nod back and follow my cousin into St. Mark's Ale House.

-
Jane

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