Dolmas

Last summer, weary from working at an Iraqi food cart all day, I placed myself on a bench at my train stop and opened my take-out box of mashi dolmas. Strangers walked past me, speaking and listening to one another.
“Miss!”
I glanced towards the person the voice came from. I approached the old man who asked for me.
“Miss, I’m gonna have to ask a favor of you. My chair is stuck in this here grate. Could you push me to the corner?”
At least, I think that is what he said. His words were slurred. But I pulled the man’s chair out of the grate, and pushed.
“What’s your name, Miss?” asked the man.
“Angelica.”
“Angelica, like an angel. I like that name, Angelica.” He savored the word.
I let myself laugh at the irony. He laughed too.
The conversation we made was labored because of his speech, but effortless as two lonely, broken, blessed, human beings.
wheelchair
We had reached the corner I thought this man had spoken of. The strangers’ eyes were looming.
“I thought you said the corner. I don’t know when the train is coming, I have to go,” I said.
“But miss, I’m hungry and have to eat. I have to get to the McDonald’s.”
“Here, have my dolmas. You like dolmas.” I tried to set the box of food in his lap and move leave.
“Miss, I have a special diet, I gotta eat McDonalds,” he said.
His story became less convincing. He had a special diet that required McDonalds? Why couldn’t he push himself with his arms? “I have to go get my train. But have a nice evening.”
The train took about a walk to McDonald’s time to reach the stop. I boarded, sat, opened my take-out box. The savory aroma filled my nostrils, but my stomach churned. My eyes brimmed with tears. Maybe this man was taking advantage of my kindness, but even if he was, don’t I do that too? Don’t I do anything to get a second glance or a shared laugh? Human contact is precious. Oh, the lengths I go to feel accepted.
“God? Am I the shittiest person you have ever created?” I prayed.
And in the Divine’s kindness and benevolence, I felt my heart reply.
“Does a parent reprimand their child for falling, or bless them for walking?” I looked out the window of the train at the city lights; they glowed over the people of Portland.

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