Anita is running late.
She looks at the clock on the wall, 8:23.
“Shit.” She threw her lunch in her bag, unplugged her phone and grabbed her keys. She opened the front door and noticed a misty rain.
“Shit.” She went back and threw on her raincoat and grabbed an umbrella.
She heard the train coming from East 2nd Street and Kings Highway. She would need to run but she was exhausted. She decided against it and simply continued to walk towards the elevated platform for the F train.
Anita was married to John. John was a construction worker who was currently working in downtown Brooklyn on the early shift. She woke up with him at 5 and made him lunch, went back to bed and, as usual, just lay there thinking. The kids were all out of the house now and it was Anita and John, “honeymooners” again, as their friends would say. She thought about that and always felt a tinge of sadness.
Anita walked up the stairs which felt as if she were climbing Mount Everest. She was tired and was not in the mood for her job today. She wasn’t in the mood for the past several years.
She swiped her Metrocard, it didn’t take so she swiped again. She pushed through the turnstile and walked up the stairs to the platform to wait for her train.
It was still drizzling a bit but she preferred to wait outside rather be downstairs and have to rush to get to the platform once the alarm rang announcing that a train was arriving.
Anita took the job as an accountant for an apparel company in the garment district in Manhattan when her neighbor recommended her. She had been working for a private school in Brooklyn running their accounting department – but they were cutting down on salaries and hers was the first to go.
When she first started working for the apparel company she felt as if it were a dream job. Nice people, great atmosphere and a very good salary and comp plan. But now she was tired.
The train came crawling into the station and she waited for it to stop. She had been in the dark about so much in her world – yet she still kept on going. There always seemed to be a flare of light guiding her. Even when she felt lost and tired – she always knew there was a higher power in charge.
She always made sure to strategically get on the same car. The one with the conductor, she chose this one because it dropped her right by the escalator on 34th Street. She got in, sat down and exhaled.
She took out her phone and saw some messages she had missed that morning. Her son, Steve, was inviting her and John for lunch on Sunday and her daughter, Tanya, was asking if she could come by for dinner on Saturday with the kids and her husband. She smiled and wondered why she even needed to ask – she was always welcome.
She texted John about their lunch and dinner plans for the weekend; ending it with an “I Love you,” as she did every phone call. She did love him and felt sorry that he was still working this job at his age. He was turning 60 in March and it made her feel sad that he hadn’t succeeded in his contracting business – it was the economic situation in the late 90’s which caused him to give it up and to apply for the local 79 union so he could work construction. It was a hard transition since he knew most of the guys already. He had hired a lot of them for his jobs and now he was just another schmuck on the line. But, like everything else in life you adjust and you swallow your pride in the need to survive. It had been 20 years now and he had slowly moved up in the ranks.
But he was tired and she knew it – she knew the look on his face and it was similar to what she felt inside. A general feeling of malaise towards the new day and the upcoming night. The fear that the phone would ring, again.
The train moved and she looked up. She saw the same commuters each day and acknowledged some of them with a smile that said, “here we go again.” The older lady who dressed very stylish; the children who were going to school all in uniform and the men who never looked up from their cell phones or newspapers. Very rarely she would notice a man dressed in a suit and tie – most of the time it was slacks, a shirt and sneakers. The beards made her squirm. It seemed like all the men grew these long beards as if they were Amish or Hasidic. She couldn’t understand how any woman could be attracted to that – thankfully John never went past 4 days without a shave.
Anita was born on the Upper West Side during the blackout of 1965. Her mother was rushed to the hospital at around 7pm that night and by 9pm had given birth to Anita. It became a historical reference, her birthdate. November 9th, 1965. When she met John at a New Years Eve party in 1985, he laughed and told her that his birthday was March 24th 1958.
“What happened on March 24th, 1958?” She asked him.
“One of my mother’s worst days – Elvis Presley was inducted into the army.”
“Really? Did that bring on her labor?” She said with a laugh.
“Hey don’t belittle Elvis. He was the man back then; he was bigger than Michael, Bruce or any of them. He was every girls dream and every boy wanted to be him.”
“So let me guess, your mom gave you Elvis as a middle name?” She said and he burst out laughing.
“I wish! She gave me Francis as a middle name. Do you know what it’s like going through life with a name like Francis?”
She laughed, “OK, let’s not concentrate on that part – I love the name John.”
“Most people who need to use the bathroom love it to.” She laughed and he knew right then and there that she was the one for him. “Her laugh was magical – it cast a spell on him.” Was what he would tell the kids and his grandchildren with a twinkle in his eye.
“Let’s go dance!” He pulled her and they danced until the countdown to the New Year. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New Year! Welcome 1986!”
He looked at her and asked her, “May I?”
She smiled and said, “If you don’t I will.”
He put his lips to hers and she felt alive. “It was just like in the movies”, she thought to herself. As she felt his lips against here she knew that her life had just been changed forever.
Anita was smiling remembering that night – they married later on that year and within four years had three children. She stayed at home raising them until her youngest turned 14 years old and started High School. She then took that job at the school, using her accounting degree and then later her CPA license, which gave her a leg up on the other applicants which she would need for the job at the apparel company.
Things were going smoothly until their phone rang at 2 o’clock in the morning. It was their middle child, Gary, calling. He had been arrested for selling drugs and possession of illegal substances with intent to sell and for driving under the influence. They had always suspected he had a drinking problem, but somehow had not ever considered any drug issues. He was also the smartest of all the kids – how he got involved in such a stupid mess was beyond her and John’s understanding.
He was given 5 years in prison – he was released after two years, mandated to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and put on probation for one year.
During the time he was incarcerated, Anita had nightmares of him being beaten or worse in jail. She woke up in a sweat and in tears. She then needed to wait to visit him – she was permitted two one hour visits per month. It made her feel out of control for the safety of her child which led her to have anxiety and panic attacks.
There were nights she wouldn’t sleep at all, some nights where she would get a couple of hours and then miraculous nights when she would sleep five hours straight. John, on the other hand, slept. He would fall asleep on the couch and then walk to bed to wake up early for his shift. He was beaten though and she knew it. They both felt responsible for their son’s bad decisions and it broke them to think that he was alone in a prison filled with bad people. It never occurred to them that their son was a bad person. She prayed that he had simply made poor decisions and would clean up his act.
One night she was at church and was praying for some sort of sign that everything would get better. She was kneeling in prayer and then stood to leave. There was a lady there praying as well – Anita smiled at her. They were acquaintances and always said hello to each other, but that was all. Tonight Anita walked over to her.
“Hi, how are you?”
“Hello Anita, I am doing well. Well, not really. I wouldn’t be here at 7 o’clock at night if things were going well.” Her eyes welled.
“Come sit down and talk to me.”
They spoke for an hour about each of their reasons for being at the church that evening. They said goodbye and then went their separate ways. Anita wondered why they had never really connected – but she liked Gloria Henderson and tonight, they both connected in ways that were spiritual and had raised both of them up when they each needed it.
She remembered one part of the evening which stood out, Anita asked Gloria if she ever felt that God was not listening to her prayers.
“I once bought a lottery ticket. I prayed and prayed to win so I could take care of all my children and grandchildren. When I didn’t win I had a revelation that, maybe we win by losing. I believe God always answers our prayers in ways that He knows best. Maybe if I had won there would have been other problems that money can cause and not fix.”
She thought about that when she felt that things were not working out how she had hoped. Maybe the hopes and dreams she had would have turned out disastrous if they had come true. Only God knows…that’s why she has faith.
The train was at York Street now, last stop in Brooklyn. She closed her eyes and wondered if her parents could see her now and what they thought about her. They had both been gone several years now but not a day went by when she didn’t think about them and ask for guidance.
Anita closed her eyes – she dreamed about her family getting together in a park for a picnic. Everyone was there, all her children and grandchildren. John was manning the barbecue while her parents were slow dancing to some song she couldn’t make out. There were trees and green grass all around – a clear water lake in the center of it all and everyone was laughing…suddenly she saw Gary sitting by the root of a tree. He was crying, rocking back and forth. He looked up at her and their were blood tears falling from his eyes and he was saying, “I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry, I am trying, I am trying…” She went to hold him….
“Next stop 42nd Street, Bryant Park.” It woke her and she jumped out of her seat and out the door right on time. She was shaking now…
She took the elevator up to her office and as usual, greeted each and everyone with her smile. She went into the restroom and washed her face by dabbing it with a paper towel. She kept seeing that vision of her son – it broke her heart. She looked in the mirror and saw her face – tear stained and tired.
She called him, “Hey Gary – how are you doing?”
“Hey Mom, I am doing well. I am at work right now, can I call you after?”
“Yes, of course, come over on Saturday, Tanya is coming with the kids.”
“OK, I’ll be there. Is it ok if I bring my girlfriend?” She felt a rush of happiness inside.
“Of course, it must be serious if you are bringing her home to meet me and your father?”
“It’s nice mom, you will love her.”
“Where did you meet her?”
“I was running late for the train one day and as I was running up the stairs, I noticed a lady with a stroller. So, I stopped and helped her with the stroller. I missed the train and got to work a little late that day.”
“She has a child?”
“No, no.” He laughed. “On the platform waiting for the train to come, she walked over to me and told me that it was a nice thing that I did.”
“I shrugged it away, it’s something you do, you know it’s the right thing. She smiled and introduced herself. It turns out you know her mother from Church, Gloria Henderson?”
She smiled and felt emotional, God works in the strangest of ways…