I’m walking from the warm glow of the coffeeshop in Addis Ababa, arms full of the treasured Yirgacheffe coffee beans, warm and content from a sugared macchiato, and between us and the van an old woman is standing with her deeply lined face, her vacant eyes, her bony hands outstretched for money. And we pretend we do not see her, pretend we have no extra, though our bags and clothes and white foreign faces betray us.
But I cannot forget her.
I’m driving away from the Oregon big box store, car full of pantry staples and preferred brands and impulse-justified treats, and between me and the stop sign an old man is sitting with his sign and his backpack and his wounds of many wars. And I pretend I do not see him, pretend I have no extra, though my receipts and bags and lunch plans betray me.
But I see her again.
So I raid my gas envelope for blood money, a dollar for him and a dollar for her, a dollar I hope will wash away the shame of looking away from so many signs, of acting blind to a blind old woman.
But I did not forget her.
I’m walking down the sidewalk in West Michigan and the cobblestones are clean, the statues are smiling, and no one comes between me and my pleasures, my preferences, my picturesque life.
No one asks for change. No one changes me.
I’m starting to forget her.
And I need to remember.