Don’t Feed The Old Lady

Recently, I started a job at Walmart. My job is to unload trucks and move freight around. Since starting my job, I’ve found myself walking a lot more. It takes me about 30 minutes to walk to my job and the same amount for the way back. Today was my first day without having to spend it training and finally start doing my day-to-day functions. After my 9 hour shift, I got off at 7 pm today and began walking home.

Normally, I walk down Broadway to get home. It goes right in front of Walmart and all I have to do is walk almost 20 blocks, make a right and I’ll be home. It’s the most simple route and, in an unfamiliar city, it seemed the best option. I don’t know why, but today I decided I was going to be a little adventurous. Instead of continuing down Broadway, I made a right rather early. I would later on anyways, so why not earlier and see more of the city?

As I turned right, I realized I was walking towards a more residential area. There were no businesses anymore, just houses. Nothing out of the ordinary really. I saw three burly men working in a yard together, and a pretty young lady walking a dog with two little girls. However, in the distance, on the road I would have to turn on to continue to my home, was an old lady walking by herself. She is central to this story. I noticed she was heading the same direction I would be going, and immediately I worried she would think I was following her. If you walk a lot, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Of course, as I’m getting close to turning she’s just barely intercepting my path and now…I’m behind her. I can tell she’s feeling uncomfortable because she’s constantly looking sideways to see if I’m still behind her. She’s walking slow, and I’m catching up on her. Even trying to slow down I’m still gaining on her. I figured I had a choice to make: ask if I could walk with her, or walk past her. Before I could decide, she turned around and made eye contact. Without thinking I immediately smiled and said, “I’m heading the same direction as you. I don’t want you to think I’m following you.”  She stopped, waited up for me and started walking next to me. I asked her, “Young lady, you mind if I walk with you?” She was clearly in her 70’s, but she smiled and said, “Well sure!”

Looking at her, she was a cute little old lady. She had these huge red earrings, was wearing this white shirt with red flower designs all over it, a scarf held together by a red flower head band (she told me how proud she was of making it) and she was wearing swimming trunks strange enough. Regardless of how she was dressed, she seemed to like me and I liked her. We kept walking together and, to pass the time, I started asking her questions. I learned that she had lived in the same place for many years, that she walks everywhere because she has no vehicle, and that she was on her way to the police station. I didn’t ask why because I felt like that would have been personal, but I knew the police station was really far so I told her I would walk with her there. She seemed happy that I would, so we just kept walking. This is when things got a little strange.

I heard her start saying things quietly. Looking at the ground, she would mutter things. I heard the words “patriot” and “spirit.”  I didn’t question it, I just figured she may have been memorizing something or trying to give herself confidence by reciting something she remembered. So, when she was done, I asked her, “How are you feeling?” She told me she was doing good and that she had found a church she really liked. I told her I was new to the area and had fallen in love with a church as well. She told me what church it was, which just so happened to be on the same block as where I lived.  I had seen all the people there before, it was a mainly African-American church. I had asked her if that was the one and she told me about how it was a mixture of black and white people and how she loved it there. We had started talking about how church could be so fun when she said the most strangest thing. We were walking as she said, “You know, I love those churches, and the Inner Spirit of Truth has called me to be a singer, but I want to sing like a black lady does, you know?” I asked her if she meant singing with soul. I told her about how there were different kinds of gospel and how black gospel was traditionally more soulful. She said, “Well, the Inner Spirit of Truth told me that if I wanted to sing like a black women I’d have to see them sing to know how.”  At this point, I wasn’t really judging her because we all know old people who have really innocent personalities but they really don’t know the best ways to express them. I didn’t say anything. I just smiled at her, but then she said another weird thing.

“You know, the Spirit of Inner Truth also told me that my skin is supposed to be darker.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, he told me that my skin was supposed to be darker and that the enemy has kept me from getting darker. See how white the underneath of my arm is?”

Of course, I started to realize that maybe she was a ‘little’ off. I understand what it’s like to be obsessed with a culture you don’t belong to, but this “Spirit of Inner Truth” started sounding like a voice she regularly hears from. I thought it would be necessary to make sure she makes it safely to police station. After all, she was walking in the middle of the road before I started talking to her. I don’t know why, but I wanted to see her get there safely. I felt bad for her. After realizing that I was thinking a lot about her skin comment, I had heard her talking to herself again. That’s when I realized fully that she may not be all there. This time I heard her say things like “spear” and “that brick has my name on it.” I was a little freaked out, and in realizing she only did this when we weren’t talking, I started asking her more questions.

I said to her, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you heading to the police station?”

“Well,” she replied, “you see I was walking with this guy once. He was really nice and we walked together for a while talking.” I started to freak out even more. Was she really going to say that she is going to police station because of me? She continued, “Yeah, he wasn’t as pleasant as you, but after a while I wanted to walk alone and he touched my scarf. You don’t do that. I felt uncomfortable and he got really upset. So when the cops showed up the Spirit of Inner Truth communicated to me, for him, and showed me he was upset and needed somewhere to live.” I was glad that she wasn’t talking about me, but more disturbed that some man had started touching her. “I’ll be honest, I’ve been divorced for less than 40 years and I haven’t seen my husband since, but I think that man was my husband, so I’m going to the police station to see if they can help him.”

This piqued my interest. How would she not know if the man was her husband? Again, this woman started talked to herself. I asked, “He was your husband?” She replied, “Well, I don’t know. I couldn’t tell, but he made me cry for ten years so he can cry too. He’s not coming into my life now.” I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe this conversation was real.

We began getting very close to the area where the police station is when I looked at her and asked, “Are you comfortable with me walking with you?” She smiled and said, “Oh yes you’ve been pleasant. As long as you don’t try to touch the scarf. You don’t do that.” She laughed. After muttering a little more to herself, she said, “You know, maybe it was mean of me to call the police. I mean, maybe I should have just let him feel my clothes and satisfy his curiosity.” I quickly looked at her and said, “Not at all. If you didn’t like it and you wanted him to stop then I think you did the best thing by telling him you wanted to walk alone. No one should make you feel uncomfortable like that.” She agreed and we kept walking.

The police station was in view now, and she had begun muttering to herself again. Clearly she wasn’t in the best frame of mind, but I also knew I would have to stop walking with her before she got to the police station. I didn’t want to impose on her and possibly freak her out making her think I wouldn’t give her privacy. I told her, “You know, here in about a block I’ll let you finish and I’ll start heading home okay?” She looked at me, and what happened next just baffled me. I heard her fart repeatedly. At first, I had no clue what was happening. Maybe a phone in her pocket had been vibrating loudly off and on, rather quickly. Then I heard her say, “Oh, excuse me!” and they kept coming. I was in so much shock that it even happened that I almost laughed, but I didn’t want to make her feel bad so I just smiled big and made no noises. Finally, we got to the last crosswalk just before the police station and I said, “Well, thank you for letting me walk with you. Have a great rest of the day.” She smiled and waved, and the last I knew she was waiting for the crosswalk light to signal her to walk. I have no idea why that happened or what, if anything, that it was supposed to mean. She was off her rocker, but she was a really nice lady. I just question how often things like this are going to happen. Tomorrow is another day, but you can bet I may not be as apt to start a conversation with a stranger anymore!

 

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