We sat across from each other. She’s tired from the journey through the years, me from the day’s travel…She looked down staring in her hands as if in deep thought. I stared at the thick hunter green veins spreading up her arms from her hands like cob webs. Her weathered skin covered in brown spots; hair like fur all over her forearms.
My eyes traveled south to her legs; arthritis had moved in, bags, furniture and all. Her scrawny ostrich legs were capped by knees nearly bigger than her whole body. She was wearing beautiful, sensible black shoes. The kind you would take to a craftsman to repair; a cobbler, whose skills the young women have no need of – they tend to throw out worn shoes. She was from a different era, she knows the value of a well-made shoe and her generation, poor as they were, kept things and repaired them often.
My eyes floated back up to her hands they trembled a little; her decrepit joints mimicked falcon claws as she scratched through her hand bag. In search of what – her youth, some gum, a thought she could not remember…? I continued to scale up her person…The classy knee length, carbon colored skirt was complemented by a cherry red cashmere cardigan sweater. Her head was still down but I could see her timeworn face. Fuzz blanketed her sad, shar pei expression. Her frail shoulders stiffly moved as she continued to claw through the bag. The stubborn gray fought against the boxed blond and won the fight. It didn’t seem to matter to her, She still pinned it up like a 1940’s movie starlet. She had the class and charm to go with it. Curiosity filled my marrow as her trembling head lifted…I wondered what she looked like in her youth…
Our eyes latched. My head tilted like the old RCA victor dog and suddenly through her cataracts blue eyes, I was whisked back to the 1940’s. I heard a swing band playing in my head; it slowly grew louder in my ears. I looked up…I was no longer on the 6 train. I was listening to the A Train and Ella was singing it. “Look,” I thought. “There she is.” She was standing against the wall wearing the same clothes, tapping her foot and gently applying bright red lipstick. She was 70 years younger, with clear blue eyes like the Caribbean ocean. I walked toward her to ask for her dance card but McCullin’s arms were already around her waist.
They would have danced all night but a husky voice burst through the air and ordered the men back to their base…they were shipping out. I stood motionless as their hands, like time, slipped away. She never saw corporal McCullin again but like many girls waiting for their guy to come home, she took his name, Mrs. McCullin. Her ruby red lips parted to a half smile with warm tears dripping on her cardigan as she turned and waved to me…I heard the faint voice of the conductor in the background. As the subway doors closed, she stood on the platform searching in her bag…for her dance card.
“The Widow McCullin” and more can be found inside…
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