Walking Amidst The Shadows!

It started out just like another, ordinary, unseasonably hot summer morning in northern California. I put on some suntan lotion, grabbed my sunglasses and headed towards the Lodi bus station, headed for Wal-Mart. But this day I was soon to discover, would be far from ordinary. I would soon encounter a ghostly woman and her small child, and what I would see, would question all I believed in.

I was almost at the bus station when I glanced to my left, towards the wall of a building, though to this day, I don't know why. That was when I first saw them. She was a woman in her thirties, walking in a hurried rush, holding the hand of a small child. Yet all I saw was their shadows against the wall. I saw no one walking past the wall and it didn't take a rocket scientist to know what I was seeing was two ghosts.

The small child's hand she held, struggled to keep up, with her left leg limping. Her mother kept looking over her shoulder, with apprehension, as if to look for someone following behind her. When both figures, reached the edge of the buildings wall, they vanished. At that point, I stopped, and lost all thought on catching the bus. I stood beside the wall where I had last seen both of them.

Who were they? Why had they died, yet continued to linger in our world? Who had she been worried about following her? Why was her little girl hurt? Where were they trying to escape to? I had no answers, only questions. I wondered why they allowed me to see them; or did they even know I had seen them? I spent much of the day on a hardwood bench nearby, waiting, wondering, I guess in the hopes that maybe I would see them again.

But I never saw their shadows again, and when the sun finally began setting, I returned to my small rented hotel room. That night I tossed and turned, and looked up at the clock and realized I couldn't get more than an hour’s sleep before waking up again. By morning, my eyes were red, and I just couldn't get the sad images out of mind. About the same time I returned to the bench, sat down and waited.

Once again, the same scene unfolded before my eyes. But this time, the mother stopped, hesitated, and looked directly at me when I called out softly, "Please wait. Can I help you in some way?” Her daughter looked at me, then up into her mother's eyes and I could almost read her mind. But her mother shook her head, then looked at me, then continued to hurry off as I watched the child give a small wave goodbye.

I could feel tears rolling down my cheek, as I looked down, my heart breaking with sadness. I wanted to help. I wanted to do something, yet I felt as helpless, as I felt her mother looked. When I finally could compose myself, I caught the bus to Wal-Mart. I went up and down the toy section aisles. I wanted to give the little girl something. Something that might bring her a smile to the child and her momma.

Something that would show them, someone cared. When my eyes saw the plush doll with deep blue eyes, I knew that was the gift. It seemed to call out to me ‘pick me, pick me.’
I could feel my heart beating the next morning before I left the old hotel where I called home for nearly a year and half. I have always cared about others and I knew with my last breath, I would still care about the needs and feelings of others. I could be no other way.

In many ways, I have lived a life of quietness, of solitude, of aloneness, much like a ghost. I asked little of others and at times I have felt as if I too were a ghost. When the morning's sunrise awoke me, I watched the clock. The hands seemed to move slowly, or perhaps it was just my impatience to see them once again. When I reached the Greyhound bus station wall, I sat the cuddly bear at the edge of the wall, turned and walked hurriedly away.

As I sat down on the bench, I watched and waited. Just when I was convinced that I had been too late arriving, I saw them. As they neared the edge of the wall, I felt needles and pins in my gut. Would they hurriedly rush past the bear, and disappear? Would they see the bear, yet continue walking or would they both stop and pick up the bear?

When they were just inches away from my stuffed animal, I had the answer to my question. They both stopped. The little, long haired girl saw the bear first and tugged on her mother's hand. When her mother looked down and saw the bear, she looked around and as she saw me, she pointed straight at me as I waved to them. Tiny hands picked up my gift and she hugged it like she had never hugged a friend before.

There were tears in her mother's eyes, as she leaned down and whispered something to her daughter. No, I couldn't see her tears, but her hands wiped her eyes which assured me she was touched. In a moment, they were gone, and my tears flowed freely. It was in that split second of time, that I felt an unseen hand wipe a tear away from my eyes, with a softly whispered, "Thank you for caring about my daughter Teri. You have a kind heart.”

Before I could even react, I felt a small child's hands hug me tightly around my neck. Before she let go, I heard a child's shy voice thank me for beautiful bear. I wish I could say that I saw them again or that maybe we had become friends.

I wish I could have discovered the answers that haunted my mind to this very day, but I never saw them again. They are ingrained upon my memory as a lost and lonely mother and child. I hope maybe once in a while they will remember the kindness of a stranger on a hot summer day.

©2005 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)