I spotted her from the car by her rolling suitcase rather than by the scarf she always wears. The scarf, it turns out, is layered underneath the wool cape she has over her head.
I call her name as she breathes in and out, a human covered in formless clothing. There is a blanket in her lap and newspaper between her and the seat on the trolley platform. Knowing her, I can see her posture, rising and falling, like when she fell asleep sitting up in the hospital waiting room. This is my mother.
I call her name, trying to be quiet enough not to scare her, loud enough to wake her, quiet enough to avoid the attentions of others on the platform.
“Who’s there?!” she says, agitated, as she wakes up.
“It’s me,” I answer as she moves the scarf on her head and peers through the neck hole of her cape.
She recognizes me and uncovers herself, saying she’s been so worried about me. I assure her I’m okay. I haven’t been, of course. In terms of what she fears, I am untouched.
She is being tortured by the government, through people in Meddler, including her sister. She worries that I will become their target because I am helping her. So, I reassure her each time we meet that I am okay.
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you,” she says.
“I tried to find you a few times and didn’t,” I say.
“But you found me.”
She doesn’t understand my worry. She doesn’t know that every time I look for her and do not find her that I am worried I will never see her again. She no longer has compassion for my concerns, she cannot.
She cannot absorb the notion of me taking actions that she did not herself witness. It’s almost childlike, like when a child is very young and what you see in front of you is all there is in the world.
She tells me that things have gone missing from her storage unit: her computer, broken rolling suitcases storing her writing. I say I’m sorry this happened, knowing that no one broke in. As I know that no one has hacked into her bank account, stole her notebook from her briefcase, or the number of other similar experiences she’s had. The experiences she has had in all the apartments she lived in for the past 15+ years.
I make an appointment to meet with her in a couple days to give her things she needs. I give her a pat, tell her I love her, and walk away, back to the car my friend is driving.
I get in the car to my friend talking on speaker, dealing with a friend’s grave illness. When the conversations ends, she updates me and, for once, I cannot hear it. I know she’s speaking words and they are important words. I cannot hear it.
“I’m sorry. I need a minute.”
We go in silence. “She’s not okay,” I say, sparing her the details.