Waiting on a Free Lunch
I've been riding my newish bike to work. The bike is golden and shiny. Everyone comments on the bike. I've also been riding the DART to work. My bike is a stir. Something must change. I pull of some stickers.
A black women, who I had noticed, also noticed me and approached. "There's a dead bird there." She pointed. "I can't stand over by that dead bird." She stood close to me. "I like your bike." Her voice was smooth and adult.
"Thank you. It's too flashy."
"No. No. Don't ever be ashamed of what you got."
"Thank you," I said. I was feeling awkward.
She asked if I was traveling, or if I work. I asked the same of her. She was vague, but she grew up in Dallas.
"So, huh, miss." She said. "Can I ask you something?"
She perceived my flinch. "Well, maybe." I said. I didn't want her to ask.
She stepped away. "I'm sorry miss. You're gonna be so mad at me."
"What?" I said. "I don't have any cash."
"No Miss. I don't think I can ask you." She rubbed her eyes. Her voice was so adult. She was so clean, with an opened bag of potato chips in her sack. She carried a turquoise file folder.
"What's in your folder?"
"What are you doing? Where do you live?"
"I live in downtown Dallas. I just came from there."
We were going there. I imagined she had been hopping all around the train.
"Are you jumping up and down the train?"
Her body said yes. "No." She rubbed her eyes and the corners of her mouth. Her teeth were built up with chips.
I felt someone watching from a distance, but people were all around, some that looked like me, mostly who didn't.
"I can help you if you are seriously in trouble, or hurt." I said. "But I don't have any money."
She hemmed and haw-ed. Rubbed her face. She grimaced and lowered herself.
"I'm sorry, Miss, But I want you to buy me lunch." Her voice was so clear and adult.
"Ok. There's a subway near my stop. I'll take you."
She clutched her papers. "Just take me, order let me stay and you leave."
The train was still 7 minutes out. The prospect of standing with her and then riding with her for 3 stops, and standing in Subway line with her. So much human between us. How we would look like an odd couple, not because she dressed or carried herself so different, but that our life experiences had made us so disjointed.
I got nervous. "All right."
When I get social anxiety I smile unrelentingly. Was I about to feed Jesus? Was this a warm commercial for doing the right thing? Unexpected friends? Or was I being followed? Scammed? Were those black dudes over there in on it?
"So what do you do?" I asked.
"I go to school." Her face lite up. "I'm over there up north getting my GED."
We boarded the train. I looked around, so did she. I emulated the casual style I took with my sister. Maybe we were buddies.
When we reached the Subway, we almost were buddies. She had prompted us to get off too early. I had to wheel my bike around and look like a dork. What if she was like Sara, what if we could talk? I tied up my flashy fix-y near the train stop. She thought I left her.
In the food line her voice was shy and timid. She ordered a salad with extra meat and extra tomatoes, two cookies- raisin and macadamia nut- and a small drink. I ordered a small drink, debated if I should eat too.
Suddenly, near the tea tin, she said " Ooh, look at you, needing to go to work. You better get going. Thank you."
I felt kinda funny, not finished layering my half and half sweet tea. "Yep. I sure do need to get back."
"Yes ma'am. You just go."
I felt kinda stupid. My bike was still there when I returned. My wallet was intact, my phone in my purse. I had not lost my keys. No one jumped me or beat me up. We didn't end up fast friends. There were no executives somewhere going to give me $100 for being nice, or to give me my big break.
With the green Subway iced cup in my left hand, I guided my bike around the corner to the shiny office building I renting out of. Today was my second official day.
What had happened? I didn't feel scammed. I didn't feel cozy. There was only this stirring feeling and a pain in my feet for walking further than expected, in wedges.