GOOD-DOERS, AND RELENTLESSLY SO
Susan slouched into an empty seat, fagged out. Who would experience all she went through today and not be? She hissed at it all. Jarring herself out of a nascent doze, she sat up. A crazy day is remarkably frustrating; to sleep off and miss the last train for the day would be just devastating.
The only other passengers at the station, besides a scruffy-looking bloke and her, were two friends exiting the station and chatting about how great their day had been. Hers had been nothing in the neighbourhood of good, much less great. Not when the two things she hated most in her entire life–false accusation and needless delay–were her lot at work today. Some man with poor eyesight and fading memory, who she had singled out from the long queue to help, considering age and feebleness, returned to make a noisy scene in the banking hall about not being paid the correct amount he asked to be withdrawn. She, as the teller on duty at the counter, bore the brunt at the manager’s office. What was supposed to be a closing time of 5:30 stretched till 9:13 p.m., and only after her colleagues and her realized the mistake originated from the old man himself. Helping people sucks at times. Waving to draw to her attention, the rough-faced guy pouted amorously at her. She looked the other way. Another of the host of unseemly gestures that come her way per day. An involuntary, drawn-out hiss escaped her lip again. The horn of the approaching train subdued it. She did not make much of old people. She considered them hard of hearing, typically annoying and…
An old woman trudged her way toward the train, her walking stick clacking on the floor.
Shakespeare was right to have described old age as “…second childishness and mere oblivion…,” she recalled, feeling guilty at the same time for entertaining such thought.
The scruffy fellow brushed past her into the train, tossing her a wink she promptly ignored. The old woman was still plodding on, metres away from entering. Unable to bear on her conscience watching the old woman miss the train, Susan reached out to help. The older person stumbled on something, spilling the contents of her bag. Mr Scruffy was looking away. Susan cursed under her breath. If someone else were available she could pretend to be busy helping the woman board and escape having to rummage the cold, unkempt train station floor for some stranger’s personal effects. Helping people sucks at times–scratch that–all times. Left with no choice, she bent down to pick–item upon item. Boy, do oldies like to keep junk!
Settled down and homebound, Susan strayed back to her idle classification of old folks: Most annoying ones are the chatterboxes; oh my, offering you a truckload of unsolicited pieces of advice. They can engage you for an entire journey, simply spouting off. Then there are the senile amnesiacs…
While ScruffyFace passed un-replied suggestive comments at her, a perfume bottle rolled across. She shut her eyes briefly, disgusted. “Maybe you should just keep all your stuff zipped up in your bag” she meant to say but froze on the third word on realizing the old woman was paralyzed on one hand. Anger yielded to sympathy. She picked up the bottle and gave it over to the effusively grateful owner.
Sympathy faded into self-absorption. Where was she? Yes, senile amnesiacs. You could tell them the same thing a million times over—her grandma, a classic example. Hers is worse considering she was blind as well. Her burial is next week, thank God. Wait, did I just gloat in relief over my granny’s demise? The woman was a handful really; well, but who maligns the dead by the way?
Seriously, keeping count of the times she had had to pick up that bottle for the woman was like snapping your fingers in sync with your heartbeat, you would not only lose count with time, your thumb and middle finger would be blissfully inflamed soon enough. And that was it: she was inflamed. Enraged. Anyway, she picked it up again, amidst unvoiced grumbling, and gave it over, eliciting the staple “Thank you so much my dear” reply from the woman. Susan resumed her nap. If she was snoring, she didn’t bother; it was just her, the old lady and ScruffyFace in the coach. They’d manage.
In the dark, something tickled her one moment and was gone. Groggily, she shrugged it away. Drowsiness coupled with a chilly night breeze on this jiggly rail-bound mass of moving metal can sure make one feel creepy sensations all over. She would reject the idea when she would feel something creep up her thigh. Fingers maybe. Jumping, she would make out ScruffyFace in the dimly lit cabin. He grabbed her waist. She tosses him a kick and a swipe across the face. The guy took a swing at her. She ducked. A second punch would hit her ribcage, knocking the wind out of her. He charged at her again. While putting up all manner of defense she frantically could–which did not amount to much, as her vision was now blurrier–she would hit her temple hard against the window.
“My eyes, my eyes…”
She doubted saying those words, but a fading consciousness can be scarcely trusted…
“Hey. You passed out after that animal launched an attack on you.”
“Oh.” Then it all came back. And with a fresh headache. “That is pretty kind of you,” she managed managing with a grimace.
“Get some rest, lady,” ambling away.
She turned around after a few steps.
“You know, all through my ride on that train, I wondered why anyone’d manage to be ungrudgingly kind to some stranger and poor geriatric like me.”
“Hm,” she nodded, while wishing the ‘ungrudgingly’ part were true.
“Found it while looking through your bag for some ID the hospital staff insisted on.”
It was her daily devotional. Susan couldn’t conceal her confusion.
“I didn’t know what made me flip to yesterday’s page: “Relentless Good Doers,” until I read the memory verse ‘And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.’ Gal–”
“–atians chapter 6, verse 9.” Susan joined in, holding back the tears.
“…and that convincingly took care of my question”, she concluded as she started to leave.
“One more thing, Ma’am”, Susan said, as she got the old lady to turn towards her again.
“Yes please, dear?”
“I was just wondering…if I couldn’t overpower that guy then how…then could you?”
“Oh no. You did.”
She produced something from her satchel bag. It was the…
“The perfume bottle?”
“No, it’s pepper spray. And yes, the one you helped pick up without getting weary. I aimed it at his eyes; that left him flustered ’til the train station police showed up.
“Thanks for saving my life…and yours,” she added, her slow footfalls echoing down the hospital hallway.
Written By: ~Bunmi Oke~
Image Source: Google Images