On this crisp sunny day on her way to the ATM, aware, she went. That is where she met Rose; a rose by any other name still stinks. There in the bank lobby where the money eating machine stood, in this place where entrance requires a formal relationship with the bank; money, membership, and a bank card. Those little warm clean spaces seemed like nice hotels for the homeless, enclosed secure places where they could pick themselves up by their bootstraps. Already before Hanna entered there was a shrunken old man, worn down by generations of banking in this place, finishing up his transaction, readying himself to leave. She came through the second door, this the inside door, got the deposit envelope from the drawer and began the process of temporarily giving the bank her money. There was some conversation at the door beyond the inside door, at the door that kept those without membership out. The shrunken old man said to someone, “Oh! There you are”. Hanna caught a glimpse of an elderly woman, not shrunken like the man, still upright after her lifetime of living. She assumed this woman and this man were a set, a pair, together, that the shrunken one was with the upright one and that they would both get into the same car in the parking lot, drive away and eventually die. Together.
“They’re closed?” she paused before again in a different way say-asking the same thing “Are they closed? Is it a holiday or something?”
Hanna looks at her and sees she is the one from the door outside the door, the one whom should be comfortably in the front seat of the car with her husband, the one whom should be instructing him on how to get out of the parking lot, that’s the one speaking now. Silently confused, Hanna wonders, what just happened? Then she answers with the authority of a bank employee, “It is Saturday, they may have been open this morning, I am not sure, but it is too late for them to be open now”.
“Well I wouldn’t have walked all the way here if I knew they were closed.” “It was a long way I came”. She said, looking cold and tired and as though she had just walked a great distance.
Hanna continued her banking chores, inserting the bankcard, waiting for the machine to instruct her next move. “Where did you walk from?” The machine beeped at her to take something out or put something in.
“I walked down the street that way and up this way and past the gas station with the big sign that said Gas Station.” All the while motioning her arms around like a traffic cop, her little red hat pulled tightly over her head, not budging.
“What street did you come up?” Hanna asks trying to get some idea where she may have come from and beginning to think this might be a problem because seemingly she isn’t oriented to day or location, two things we generally hold tightly in our minds when all else has left us.
The upright old lady holds on to the kiosk, and deep in thought she says, “how does a person describe something… you see there is a school and a street in front which I walk by and then I turn and walk past the gas station with the sign and after some time I get here.”
“Hum, would you like a ride home,” Hanna asks, with absolutely no idea where this old upright lady lives, but knowing she can’t leave her in this warm place where homeless people and people who need to bank on Saturday should be.
“Am I mooching? Yes thank you, I would like a ride.” She continues, “It is not a crisis, for me to bank today,” opening a small leather wallet with one little zipper; a wallet like a child might have, opening it like a child to expose the contents; a wad of money. “ You see I am just supplementing my account, it’s not a crisis.”
Reassured Hanna nods okay and they go outside into the fresh air, air that does not smell like money, old people or Saturday afternoon. “Do you want a ride?” Checking to be sure she really does, in case there is short-term memory loss or some other complication.
“Yes, yes I wish to ride.” “See down there, there is the gas station.”
Now at least the way out of the parking lot was decided. Hanna’s car is blue or black, depending on the angle of the sun, with rust in many places and a bullet hole in the trunk that has a screw plugging it up. Without the screw the trunk gets wet and smells like smelly wet things. The car was shot on New Year’s Eve for no apparent reason; it remains one of life’s mysteries. The passenger seat was full of things, extra coats, bags, books, stuff to be thrown out, all these things got tossed into the back seat, where they spread out as if to take a nap. More things were on the floor, shoes, empty pop bottles, a club for locking the car and other stuff, which Hanna moved to one side. “ No one usually rides in the front seat.” Trying to relieve her embarrassment.
And into the car she went, the upright old woman from the bank, for a ride home, trying to fasten her seat belt.
“The belt doesn’t work, you will just have to trust my driving.”
“Okay.” Looking around for something to hold on to, finding the door handle and latching on for the ride.
“My name is Hanna.”
“Nice to meet you, my name is Rose, a rose by any other name still stinks.”
from upcoming The Seven Magnificent Mercies