Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Miss Blue Eyes

A warm misty day. Fog blots out the usual neighborhood activities – street conversation and kids playing in the parking lot. Everyone is huddled at home. At times it rains – a staccato conversation, water on pavement. The whoosh of tires on the road sounds like ocean rolling in and out from the shore.

My beading hand went into a charley horse yesterday, so I am holed up resting my it and come to think of it, the rest of me. Silence, then a movie, then silence. The day has no time sequence. It just rolls slowly, like the fog.

For some reason, I think about a doomed pregnancy that ended in my fallopian tube and with the doctor’s pronouncement that I could easily become pregnant but it would probably be life-threatening. I wonder, if that baby had come to term and been born, how old it would be now. Twenty-two or so, I calculate.

I wonder, if there was a soul, a spirit, waiting to come into the world. If so, did it find another mother? And inevitably, it occurs to me that I’ve spent twenty years working with people the age that child would be now. Although that child never became a part of my life, many others did.

I think about the students at Toronto Dance Theatre and my student assistants at the library– a few of whom I’ve reconnected with by putting a profile up on Facebook. E. found me.

E. graduated a few years back and was, last time I saw her, a successful entrepreneur, looking very big city and glamorous, compared to her student days. E. has beautiful eyes, a quick, quirky wit. She's a natural scholar. She is funny, pretty and kind.

I almost didn’t hire her. I was worried that, with cerebral palsy, she’d find it difficult to cope with all the physical motion at the library desk. Back and forth, hauling down course reserves, having to move quickly when it was busy. Marko knew her, and he was a friend so I confided my dilemma to him.

“She takes sculpture,” he said. Sculpture is a heavy, physically demanding art form. “And if you’re not sure if she can handle it, ask her. She’ll tell you.” Right. It was good advice, as well as a mild rebuke.

So I hired her. She hefted the heavy hard-cover books onto tall shelves without a whimper of protest. She waited on the public, and handled the cash and helped people find the material they needed. She showed up on time, every time and often filled in when someone blew a shift. She sat, to my shame, in the same broken-down, second hand chair – the one with the wonky wheel and no back support – that all my student assistants put up with. And she never asked for anything, even though student services told me there was a fund, if she needed a good chair or anything special. It killed me that she had to sit in that refugee from a second-hand office furniture store.

I found out about her sense of humor and kindness because of the chair. I insisted on a new one, budget or no budget. An expensive, ergonomically correct chair. One with all the requisite wheels attached and functioning. When it finally arrived, I was beside myself. None of my student assistants could come near the library without me joyously urging them to sit in the wonderful chair and try it out.

I learned later that E. had whispered to the others, “Make sure you notice the chair. She’s so excited about it.”