Friday, May 28, 2010

Lady At the Corner

She disappears during winter. Otherwise, every morning at around 9am, she stands at the same corner with her luggage in tow. Her neTela gave away her identity. Let’s call her Itye Lady. Her luggage is generally two or three small bags. She reminds me of the mothers at meneharia (yes, I’ve been there!) They pack small bags, even plastic bags. It’s as if they’re not going to miss the place they’re leaving behind, or like their destination is temporary. Leyismula packing. You cant tell if they’re going home or going away. Like Itye Lady.

If you didn’t see her at that corner everyday, you could think that she just came back from a shopping spree. Except it’s 9am. In Manhattan’s unofficial embassy district. And the bags don't exactly look very new. When I first moved to the area I attempted to say hello. No response. For the sake of yilugnta, for weeks I figured I should at least bow my head. Nope, no acknowledgement. I even suspected if maybe she wasn’t habesha. But there was the neTela draped on her shoulder like a Sunday betekiristian tesalami.

Eventually, telemamedin. I went about doing my business. Every so often I’d look out for her. Seasons came and passed. I noticed she wasn’t there during inclement weather, or the winter months. She’s not there at 7am. But any weekday between 9 – 10am, that corner can count on her presence.

I don’t know when I decided what her story should be, but after wondering what brings her there I’d concluded that her son (son, not daughter, I don’t know why) had told her years ago that he’d pick her up at this corner, but never showed up. So every day since that day, she comes to that corner, ready to go wherever he’s going. Yeah, I made it up., but it suited me.

This morning I left my apartment closer to 10am. Late for work. Again. I figured I should find some Spanish audio to practice with during my walk. I was fidgeting to find the right track with both ears plugged when I heard, “yisemashal?” coming from behind me.

I turned around. Lo and behold, Itye Lady was talking to me!

I said, ‘awo’, as retraced my steps back to her.

“yigebashal?” she asked again.

Saqe meTa. It’s like when habeshoch ask in the street, “Habesha nesh?” Over the years I’ve learned to answer with a straight face, ‘aydelehum. Antes?’ You’d think that’d stop them there. No, they get confused for a bit, then u see their face light up and they’ll ask, ‘Amarigna tawqialesh?’. I don’t tire, I fire back, ‘Ay alawqim, antes?’

I was tempted to start my game with Itye Lady, but considering this momentous occasion, I decided to play CHewa instead.

“awo, yigebagnal”.

“yihenin awCHiw’, she said pointing to my earphones. I took out one ear. “wedelela, yemayhon neger yimerashal. Tiru aydelem”

So here I’m thinking that’s an odd way to phrase the issue but she must mean the traffic, that I’ll accidentally walk into oncoming traffic while distracted by what I’m listening to. Or that I’ll miss a warming horn or yell. Anyway, all I said was, ‘Ahhhh…’.

“Be igziabher tamgnalesh?’ she asked. Aha! I see, said the blind man. I see.

I don’t know why, I said ‘awo aminalehu’.

“ke igziabher yineTilishal! Blela bekul yiwesdishal …. “ At this point I’d started retreating, with my fakest of fake pleasant smiles on.

“Ishi, ishi … ameseginalehu … belu dehna yiwalu ….”

I bolted.

A block later I put on the Spanish audio I was looking for.

13 minutes later when I reached my office, I realized yebaTun yeQotun silesetiyewa sasib, I actually didn’t hear much of the audio.

I mean, Itye Lady …. talked!

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