The woman stands on the grass instead of the sidewalk. I pass her on weekdays, when I get my children from school. Twelve years ago, she and I lived in the same apartment building. Now she’s near sixty, and heavier than she was. But her face looks much the same, her hair still red, her eyes kind, her lips constantly moving, whispering a mystery.
Where is her family? Far away, by death or by distance. I’ve only ever seen her alone. She dresses in clean, pressed clothes and comes to this place, in the shade between bus stops, and rocks from toe to heel.
Dappled around her are the long-ago prayers of her mother and father, and perhaps a brother. Of strangers kneeling in Venice and crowds making the hajj. Prayers of protection for the vulnerable. “Who is that lady talking to?” my young son asks. The traffic stops and frames her in his window like a portrait. His curiosity sees without judgment and blesses her. My well-wishes, always thumbing, hitch a ride on his innocence and pass through the glass. “To God,” I say. The brake lights dim and we roll on, looking for a destination she’s already found.