“Thank You, Very Much.”


She was shorter than I, with soiled, shoulder length salt and pepper hair and a walking tripod cane. I recognized this cane, as Dad would use one in his final years while living with me. Because her head was lowered slightly, I couldn’t determine the woman’s relative age; but able to, on account of my relative height, I reached above her to hold the door open to enable her to navigate into the lobby of the South Erie Postal Station.
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Silently, she preceded me.
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Taking those few steps required to reach the service window enclosure, again there was a door and again, as she reached forward, I took ahold and held it for her so she could get through with her cane.
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Again, she remained silent, not looking back in my direction.
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As we waited in line, she having stepped past both me and the others utilizing the materials island to prepare our packages for mailing, I silently observed her. Perhaps she was a “deaf mute”, the term my father had always used for one of his neighbors across from the barber shop on 5th. Or, maybe a first generation immigrant, preferring not to speak unless she could converse in her native tongue. These speculations, I decided, would explain her silence.
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Having completed the woman’s transaction, the postal worker wished her a good day. At that point the woman turned left, preparing to make her exit. In so doing, she spoke. Clearly, and distinctly, in perfect English:
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“Thank you, very much!”
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I watched her, moving slowly with her cane, to the door and out of the station. Checking an impulse to break from the line and follow her, I thought better of it, considering the number of tasks awaiting me at home.
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But, I wanted to follow her. I wanted to catch up, and speak to her. I wanted to ask her, to confront her. Why had she not thanked me, even once, for holding the door for her?
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What was it – my dark hair? my sunglasses? my yellow raincoat? The jeans. All my colors. My complexion? my bone structure? my ethnicity?
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Was it some vestige of either fear, or repugnance, she felt at the sight of me?
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Perhaps she’d preferred to make her own way through the doors, without any assistance at all. Was my gesture interpreted as condescending, or some unnecessary spotlight on her apparent infirmity?
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Some fleeting recollection of childhood spun across my subconscious. I was the only brown girl, in a legion of Anglo-Saxons. Always complimented for my “beautiful skin”, by our grandmother, for a moment I was that girl again, the one different from everybody else in the family. Then, fast forward, to Customs in the Toronto airport, 1984. My curly perm, and the cans in my carry on from the Scottish butcher shop; detained, interrogated and then, me, running with all my might to get to the gate before the plane closed its doors.
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I left the post office, walking through the doors of my own accord and out into the sun. I didn’t want to feel hatred, only wonder, and a little sadness.
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She was gone. Still, I heard my voice speak to the woman, declaring my self, my family history, reveling in the clarity of my perfect English. I, too, was a woman, my father’s daughter, and proud, thank you very much.
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5/31/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.     All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose real, Biblical, birth name appears above this line.
littlebarefeetblog.com

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