In The Name Of So Many

Last week on YouTube, I watched a video taken from a security camera in a fast-food restaurant somewhere in New Jersey. Looked like it might have been summertime, the way the light shone along the floor and tables.  In the video, you see a lean black woman with a sleeveless top and long blond extensions bringing her tray of food to the table on the left side of the screen. As she goes to sit, a young black woman comes in, wearing her hair cap and a coat, and heads to the counter.  Even though you can’t see her face, you can tell she is exhausted as she leans in.

Since COVID, most cash register areas are still protected by a wall of plexiglass so I can’t really tell what the clerk is doing; the plexi is all gloss and reflection. The young black woman backs away from the counter to plop into a seat at the table on the right side of the screen, clearly worn out. The blond black woman is looking over at her.

I had the volume off and was watching the closed caption text sputtering across the bottom of the YouTube screen, which is about a one-inch by two-inch slice of movement and color at the top of the phone screen.  The words were tiny and slow.

The exhausted young woman opens her coat to hand a balled up brown bath towel to the other, 

who is now standing close and has sanitized her hands with wipes from her purse.  She returns to her seat and unwraps a baby. 

Unwraps a baby.
The other woman unwraps a baby, new. 
Brand newborn.
New umbilical cord hanging down to the restaurant floor. 
A stranger unwraps a baby.

Young mama stands up, leans over the blond stranger and her new baby. I can tell both women are sharing a moment of some kind but their words are not what the caption is reporting. 

Young mama turns to the door, the camera. 
There is blood on her pants and her t-shirt says “Let me sleep.”
Young mama leaves,
new baby, new umbilical cord hanging. 
Young mama leaves. 
Baby stays.
Stranger taking care. 
Stranger taking care.  

Let that poor young mama go to sleep. Her face, under the bright light, has frozen hysteria smeared all across it.  The new baby nearly falling out the balled-up brown towel, delicate skin un-swaddled. 

Young mama in no kind of shape
to wrap the wee one in clothes
or in attention of any kind. 
She just trying to not die. 
Just trying to not die.
She didn’t kill the baby, no.
She had hope.
Young mama had hope.
She got help. 
Brand new baby got help. 
Every place is someplace to be loving.
Stranger taking care.
Stranger taking care.

The woman with her blond braids pulled back, her mouth making cooing shapes to the baby puts the oxygen mask on the tiny face when the medics come.  

Little baby had been having a hard time
Little baby having a hard time.
Hard time breathing.
Birth shock and being left made her breathless. 
Birth shock and being left made her breathless. 
She just trying to not die.
New baby trying to not die.
Strangers taking care.
Strangers taking care. 

The boyfriend of the blond black woman, 
who had arrived just before the medics, 
the woman holding this new starling, 
he took a video of the baby’s first cries. 
Starling’s tears.
Baby crying. 
Man crying. 
Baby crying.
Grown man crying.

Wouldn’t you know, he’d been left when he was a newborn, too. 

Strangers taking care
Strangers taking care.
Strangers taking care.

About the Author

As a young girl, in Boston MA, I was enchanted by words and music. I have made them both the biggest part of my life as a woman. I started writing in fourth grade and decades and boxes of journals later, I write as if I were going to sing everything. Words have to feel right in my mouth, because, in fact ,I do end up singing most of what I write.   Now living in Montréal QC, I teach yoga, meditation and tour yearly with my band Silvervest.

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