Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    They just call her Gert. No one knows for sure, but all the street bandits, hookers and junkies just call her Gert. Might have been Mary, Sue or Cindy in the day, but that day’s long spent. Now Gert just spends her days making the rounds scoping out her trash cans, dumpsters and drink can pickups. Gert gets by.

Long lost in the decades is some old high school yearbook that might of shown a glossy of a smiling prom queen or gyrating cheerleader that might of looked familiar. Hard to say now. Maybe, long lost in some damp basement is buried a wedding album, undisturbed under boxes of rotting clothes. A flowing gown cascading off the shoulder’s of an innocent bride with over rouged cheeks, Gert?…..maybe. A husband’s plot, tucked away in a vine covered corner of a wasted cemetery…….maybe. A daughter who tries not to dwell on a bewildered and time lost mother that no longer knows her……maybe this is Gert, or Mary or Cindy. Doesn’t matter, Gert gets by.

She makes her rounds. Old stained pillow from the trash can on 44th…..broken cell phone in the alley off Hinds street…..faded ball cap, half a pack of stale dinner rolls and a stalk of limp celery in the dumpster behind Dell’s CafĂ©. A good start for the day.

She heads to the park over at South Bend and finds her favorite bench. If someone is sharing the bench, she just sits down and starts talking to herself until they get up and move on. Once the bench is hers, she piles her assets next to her leaving no room for anybody else. She takes out the stale pack of rolls and starts crumbling up the bread and tossing it out on the sidewalk for the sky rats that start to descend and cluster around her ankles. She talks and scolds them while making up names for the birds. Soon she takes her nap while her little friends stand guard.

Gert slowly walks down the middle of the sidewalk that runs along Dumont. She stops ever so often to pick through a trash bin pulling out cans and unfinished lunches. The food is always fresh long Dumont.

The sun is now setting behind the Madison Building. Gert collects discarded newspapers on her way to the 22ave subway entrance. There were snow flurries off and on all day and the newspaper would add insulation under her coat tonight. She carefully maneuvers the stairwell down to the subway platform and then walks a short distance until she reaches the restrooms. She drags her treasures into a stall with her and then a few minutes later, she pulls them all out again. She washes quickly at the sink being ever watchful for strange intruders that might walk in. She now leaves the restrooms and walks about two more blocks down the platform until she reaches her night bench. As the 302 rushes by, she organizes her assets safely next to her and then sits down and relaxes.

Gert watches the people hurry back and fourth. Listens to all the languages….so many languages. She takes out the newspapers and stuffs them inside her coat. She looks for a moment at some of the pictures under the headlines but she no longer has her glasses so it doesn’t matter anyway. Most like Reagan was still president.

It’s getting late now. Her head starts to sag and nod and finally she drifts into a guarded sleep. A short distance down the platform, a young man calls out to a woman, “Mary!” For a brief flicker of a moment, lost in her sleep world….Gert smiles.