Two Women-Different Worlds
Sitting in the park, I watched them both pass by me. They appeared odd among the tourists that populated the area.. One I knew and one I did not. Yet, they were both as different as night to day but yet, in a strange way, the same.
The one I knew came first. She was a fairly new acquaintance but I knew her type well. She typified all that I had grown to know of this old area over my many years here. Older now, she still showed the looks of what must have been beauty once. She was older than I by at least five years but time had taken a harder toll on her than it had so far on myself. She was intelligent, flamboyant and strong but with a very negative outlook when it came to the human race. I knew the reasons even before she told me...too many assaults upon her more tender senses through time and it had embittered her. She felt good about herself but very little else. She swayed of old beliefs and old teachings and she was a true refined product of this diverse and often adverse environment.
She was a true mixture of the blood roots of this place with the Native American, Spanish and French heritage running strong in her. Her brown eyes snapped sharply with awareness, her warm tan skin glowed even in this age and her words were educated, articulate and biased. This place, the French Quarter, cut no one any slack at all. You had to be able to stand up to it or else it would “eat you alive”...her words.
We talked for quite awhile, sitting on that hard, ornate wrought-iron bench. We watched the tourists meander by, pausing to admire Andrew Jackson's statue in the middle of the Square. A refreshing breeze blew off the river, gently waltzing the myriad of flowers in the large standing pots and also in the cultivated beds. The Mardi Gras fountain burbled its singing sound as the water spilled over the iron center piece and into the shallow brick-lined pool. The pigeons fluttered about, seeking crumbs and any tasty handout they could find. The smaller but very diligent sparrows mixed among them, depending on their flight speed to steal the morsel if they were able to retrieve it first.
She and I talked, not staring into each other’s eyes but watching our surroundings and listening to the words. I listened more than she did. With time, her wound up verbal clock spring loosened and she had expended all that she had to say. She smiled at me, thanked me for my time by saying how much she enjoyed my company in the balmy afternoon. Then off to some unidentified destination, she bid adieu and went her way. I watched her go, sighing as I did. I wished she had known more happiness.
I dawdled over my book, choosing instead to watch the scenes before me when the second one came. She passed as quickly and quietly as a ghost but was seen by everyone. She was young, square and oddly dressed with a man’s attire and calf high combat boots. She carried a fully loaded back pack on her back and she had to lean forward in a slanted position to brace for the weight of it. She was one of the many homeless that came through here. She was not the one who had attracted the attention to herself but her companion was. A medium-sized dog, shaggy in black and white, in middle years, and carrying on his back, his own set of packs in a brace over his shoulders. His pace matched hers.
There was nothing hopeless about the pair but simply drifters moving through my present space. I watched them in silent gratitude that I was not in the position but then, perhaps that is the life that she had chosen. She was not malnourished nor was the dog. Her back pack was large, well-organized and of expensive camouflage material. Where ever they were headed, they were prepared for the journey.
I watched them until they were out of sight.
Two women, two lives, and two different choices that for that moment shared their time with mine.