She stood waiting in the lobby of her building, shushing the nurse worrying over her – both giggling – devotion, each to the other, obvious in every gesture.
I gasped, “Oh, but she is gorgeous! You didn’t warn me!” My companions had described her age, but little else.
Childlike yet poised, delicate yet enduring, unpretentious yet regal, mature yet ageless – there was dazzling clarity in that first glimpse. If beauty is that which “gives pleasure to the mind or senses,” she was, well into her 90s, oh-so-beautiful, still.
We sat together in the backseat during the 45-minute drive. Taking my hand in hers, she whispered tributes to her daughter, who was our hostess for the evening, and to her grandson, who was to guide the Passover Seder, and to the nurse, who had become her dearest friend. Mostly, though, she asked of my life. Many nonagenarians would have, to my delight, reminisced of decades past, but her focus was upon the present and on her unlikely escort to a gathering overlooking Central Park.
11 months into the bicycle journey I began in Louisiana, in May of 2016, I met the couple in the front seat via WarmShowers.org. Such is the trust among that cycling community that they lent me a spare apartment near a four-day astronomy conference in New York. On the fifth day, after I said goodbye and pedaled on, they texted to ask if I’d return and join them for a Seder in Manhattan, which is how I found myself, hand-in-hand, with that ever-lovely, never-lovelier young soul.
For decades, I lived alone and worked from home, ghostwriting of extraneous technology, days passing without encountering others. More ghost than writer.
Thanks to a bicycle,
I do not,
I am not.
(Photo: Shot with smartphone pressed to a floor-to-ceiling window of an apartment overlooking Central Park. The phone’s tiny camera sensor produced loads of noise in low light, but still…)