On a tree, I noticed a memorial for a woman I barely knew. She was my age and lived with two small white poodles. A few years ago when Lester and I were looking for a singer, I approached R. because she had mentioned that she had once been a professional singer. I couldn’t picture her on broadway. She was always wearing a business suit, and had short cropped hair. Turns out that she had become a lawyer.
I gave her a copy of the CD we had made to listen to, but she decided not to get involved – it wasn’t her type of music. What type did she like, I asked. Peggy Lee. Standard ballads. That sort of thing.
So we’d bump into each other nearly every day and then she was missing for a while. The next time I saw her, her head was shaved, she had lost a lot of weight, and obviously was going through chemo.
From there on in, there were ups and downs. Times when she’d feel like chatting, and other times when she’d smile, but you could sort of tell she just wanted to be with her two dogs. Her hair grew back. Maybe she had made it. I didn’t really know her enough to get too personal with her. And then a few weeks later, the head was shaved again. This went on for a few months.
As I say, a few days ago there was a color photograph of a woman covered in plastic, on a nearby tree. It was a memorial to R. She looked beautiful in the picture. It must’ve been taken 30 years ago. Hair rich and flowing. Eyes bright. Almost as if she were on a stage. Even though her name was on the notice, I had to stare at it for a long time until I could recognize the face. Mostly the eyes hadn’t changed.
And on the same day, the owners of a nearby bodega brought their newborn son in and asked me if I wanted to take a few shots. I worked without waking the baby, and then told them I’d like to try again when D. is awake. And leaving the shop, I felt that sense of how they come and go on this earth. It’s not a new sentiment – just a surprisingly strong feeling for me.