Pushing the Cart
By Cory Dudley
There are no names for days, well days as we know them anyway. Nor are there months of the year in the life of “The Cart Lady” as she is known in the town where she aimlessly wanders the streets. There are just times when it’s light and then it gets dark; it’s just an endless unnoticed cycle that knows nothing of boredom. There is also no sense of time in this woman’s life; she has no appointments, no deadlines. For her, she is always where she should be, wherever that might be. It’s a quiet oblivion. She isn’t worried about her clothing, no fashion statements here. Mixed patterns, tears, missing buttons, it doesn’t get her attention. To her clothing is for warmth or to be shed as summer settles in and fires up the sandy streets.
The story goes; she lost her three children during a hurricane when a wall of water came crashing down the mountain smashing into her little casa and her children were swept into the sea along with all of her worldly possessions. She was found a day later buried in the debris where the arroyo enters the sea, badly bruised, bleeding, and completely disoriented. It seemed at first she would be able to get her life back together; there was a spark of life in her eyes.
But as the days passed in the Convent where she had been placed, a deep depression was slowly consuming her and filling her days with a darkness she had never known before. One morning she just didn’t show up for breakfast. The Nuns found her bed unmade and it appeared she left with only the clothing on her back. She had walked out into the morning sun never to return. Her journey all alone in life had started that very hot summer morning and it continues to this very day.
Her days are spent wandering the streets pushing a tired old cart that holds all of her worldly possessions. A torn blanket, a plastic bag filled with old plastic bags. A few empty bottles and cans rattle in the bottom of her cart keeping cadence as she pushes through the sandy streets. The cart is as tired as the woman. It’s badly rusted and has one bent wheel that leaves a wandering track in the sand wherever she goes.
Around her are four or five dogs, very lean, and their rib cages speak of hunger. They are constantly circling the cart, biting at the flies that taunt them or just snapping at the air. It’s a small pack, but the Pack mentality is alive and well. It’s as if they were looking for any kind of trouble that might be available, no matter how big or small. The Cart woman doesn’t notice the dogs any more than she notices the constant dust that dulls her hair and streaks a face that knows the sun. The dogs are her constant guardians. She is never out of their sight. No one gets close to her that even remotely looks threatening. Those that have tried are severely bitten and run off in pain. But some how they know when a caring person drives up beside her or approaches her on the street and places a few pesos in her hand. They back off, sit and quietly watch, ever so vigilant. She never acknowledges the offerings, her face long ago lost its smile; nor does she look to see what has been given her. It’s slowly put into her ragged pocket and once again she moves on into the day.
They say she sleeps down in the Arroyo under a large tree that was ripped out of the ground during the Hurricane. It’s close to where her house once was and there is always a dog or two there as if standing guard awaiting her return.
Once or twice a week, late in the night she walks into town and sits outside one of the many back street bars listening to the music with her head swaying back and forth. Before dawn a sweaty beer smelling figure will take her behind the bar and do things to her she is unaware of, it’s just a part of her life. The dogs just sit and watch, it’s something that would never happen during the day, it’s as if they know this means food in the morning. The pesos he gives her is passed on the following morning to the small store close to the Arroyo. She passes the rumpled pesos and coins over the counter and receives food for her dogs and a few tasteless bean filled tortillas for herself. There is no money in her life; she only knows that what is put into her hand gets her through the next day, though there really is no next day for her. For this woman there is only light, dark, heat and cold; the pangs of hunger passed long ago.
“She once spoke to me, I had stopped to give her a few pesos and she looked up and in a very tired and soft voice said, “I heard my children last night. They were laughing down by the Sea. My children love the Sea. I may find them today you know. I hope I do; I so hope I do.”
When my world starts closing in and I feel put upon, left out and alone, I must seek out this woman. Then I should ask her to sit in my soft comfortable chair and rest, to unload her burden if only for a few hours, while I push her cart.