She was 19 when we met. I had just turned 28. Back in those days, I played a lot of Scrabble and listened to NPR every morning on the way to the work. Obama had won the election, and I was listening closely because I had a personal stake in healthcare reform—namely my insurance options.
This was it, I thought, one Monday morning. I had arrived to some vague plateau of achievement, and I had this to look forward to for the next couple of years. The feel of sliding into pressed khakis after my morning shower, the reliable sound of the NPR jingle at 7:45 on the dot in traffic, the smell of coffee as I walked into the office and greeted Pam and Brian. This was my time, I thought. Maybe not so much my time to bask or gloat over anything—I had never been a very smug person anyway—but it was an opportunity to enjoy comfort in my life. Yes. Comfort, I thought. That was when I almost ran her over.
The initial shock came and went as normally as it should have in an almost-accident type of situation. What lingered was my sense of infuriation—three cars stopped dead in the middle of the street to avoid hitting her, and she stood there looking more confused than apologetic. You ran out into the road during rush hour without looking for cars, idiot girl. What did you think would happen?
Her books had dropped out of her arm, and after finally realizing her situation, she quickly scooped them up and rushed off of the street. One book remained on the asphalt, however—Dancing in Odessa, by Ilya Kaminsky. It was slightly worn, but I recognized it right away. My friend Patrick had given it to me on my 22nd birthday, right before he left for army boot camp. Ignoring the honks and revving engine sounds, I stepped out of my car to retrieve it. Her name was on the cover: Rose Madox.