The Lily of Rossville
She pushed her grocery cart down the sidewalk, it groaned under the weight as it caught on every crack and seam. This was the Cadillac of shopping carts, she was sure it was a gift from God. Her luggage, an assortment of shopping bags piled inside her new caddy.
Following the same path each day, she became known as ‘The Lily of Rossville’ her route to and from the YWCA kept her near Rossville Blvd, where early morning check out was required.
‘The Lily’ wheeled out of the parking lot of the Y and descended the steep drive holding on to her ‘caddy’ the overloaded cart weighed more than she did and she needed to dig her heals in the gravel to brake. She turned right on to Lillian Holt and then left on Rossville Boulevard grumbling at any cars that got too close.
The casual observer would not recognize her as homeless, except by shopping cart. Petite, barley weighing ninety five pounds; she wore layers of clothing, her ever present umbrella tucked under her arm, as much for protection against any stray dog as for the unpredictable weather. A hat often covered her close cut hair, obscuring her angular mahogany complexion.
One would have imagined her commanding the attention of students in a classroom, or an advocate for women less fortunate than herself, perhaps a lecturer or prophetess. The only thing to detract from the possibilities was that she argued with her. She screamed at passing cars and muttered at the curious whose glance would turn into a stare.
The complexity of her demeanor and appearance was captivating and magnetic. Each passerby would at once be drawn to her only to be repelled by the possible mental illness, the contradictions causing the most callous to wonder at the circumstances that turned her out of home and heart.
Early one morning a long white limousine pulled over to block her path in the crosswalk, her usual response died on her lips when the driver stepped from the car. He tipped his hat and opened the door; she blinked and reached for her umbrella.
“Please come, your presence is requested”, he commanded.
“I will not leave my things”, was all her voice could find to say. Gathering her shopping bags she shoved them across the white leather seat as she climbed in after them, leaving her cart behind. They sped passed the Gardens of Faith, the Lily slid down into the sumptuous seat and muttered some unintelligible sounds, her superstitions kept her from passing the cemetery.
Finally as the car stopped and the door opened, she clutched at her shopping bags as she was led up the walk to a now opened door. Standing on the stone step she bent forward and stuck her head through the door, as the driver stepped to her side taking her elbow and guided her into the entry. Self conscious of her appearance she tried to wipe off her feet, she struggled to smooth her clothes with the bags she carried, again refusing the drivers offer of help with her ‘luggage’.
Scanning the room she noticed white marble floors, white carpets, a white grand piano with white sofas and chairs. The staircase arched up into the white ceilings with the only color in the room being the blue sky that shone through the billowing curtains of the opened windows. She kept glancing back to the windows, sure she wasn’t dreaming.
The driver held out his hand and she obediently climbed the steps, clutching her belongings closer. Following the long white hallway she entered the room where she was directed.
White linens and sumptuous textured fabrics covered the huge bed. More white carpeting led into a room of white fixtures including a sunken tub full of white bubbles, her awareness of her appearance made her shrink. The hand touched her elbow and directed her to a closet full of clothes all white with accents of color.
His voice broke the silence, “All of this has been prepared for you, it is yours”.
Stunned, she stared at him warily?
“Allow me to take your baggage”.
Pulling away from his outstretched hand she flew to the doorway. “These are mine, it’s all I own”.
“Please, allow me to carry your burden”?
“Everything I own, I..I can’t let go”. She was afraid to let go. “No”.
Stumbling out of the house he heard her say; “It’s all I have, I can’t let go.”
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