November 2016

by Maniza Naqvi

USShared a wooden bench at Union Station. Sat side by side. I hunched. Waiting for Red Caps to come get us. Take us to our tracks. To our trains. Mama GiGi and I. Police in black riot gear with dogs, eyed us, loitering nearby. And around us, more of us. With strollers, carry-ons and backpacks, attached. Thanksgiving travelers. People moving like lines of refugees stumbling along, on and on.

Her train departing at 3.30 to Norfolk, Virginia beach. Mine before hers to NYC. She turned to me and talked and talked. And I with my eyes on this and that watched a clock and listened and listened keeping a look out for a Red Cap. She: All my love. All honey. Mama GiGi.

Long hair flowing flaming volcanic lava red, under a floppy red suede hat. A silver cross hung at her chest. Pale white wrists, red scabs. Pant suit. Fire engine red. Also. Crimson nail polish. To match. Bare feet in sandals. A scarf of old glory draped around her neck. Rhinestone encrusted sunglasses. By her side a tote bag full of pill bottles in Ziploc bags.

Mama GiGi talked and talked. Each sentence preceded by the words, my love. I listened on. And on. Mama GiGi, a pastor of her own church: Treasures of the Heart. She gave me her card. Her daddy was mafia. Her mother a drunk. And. So. She'd been dropped. She said. She'd been a lap dancer, a crackhead, a Heroin addict. She'd aborted two babies at age 15. Born Catholic. She'd left all that. To be born again. An addict again. For Jesus.

She'd found Jesus. Hymns in her, abounded. Jesus had saved her. Founded, the lost. The dropped. Picked her up. Lifted up an addict and a whore. You're looking at a miracle, she said. I said, that's way too easy. I'm looking at America.

Oooh! She cried. Oooh! She kissed my hand. Stroked my face. Gave me a hug. Overcome. Camp-pained, for Jesus and Trump, I did. She said. Get it? Spelling it out for me. Camp pained. For Jesus and for Trump. For my struggles. Made poster signs for ‘em both. Held ‘em up proudly, road side. Lots of appreciative honking. Uh Huh. Praise Jesus. Lots of cussin' and abuse. Well that's fine too. Thank you! Did it for Jesus. And for Trump. God bless. She'd hollered after them down the road. The honkers, the hooters, the cussin' abusers.

She asked me my name. Oooh. That's nice. Pretty. Where was I from? She began to cry. Holocaust. She said. She'd been there. To the Holocaust museum. She showed me a photo on her Iphone. She'd taken of a photo there. Of Muslims. A couple. They had hidden a Jewish family. It's so small. She said. Oooh. Oooh. She mewled. It should be ten feet tall.

The whole Mall, she said, my love, is just a big mausoleum to the dead. Why? Why dwell on death? My love. Why? Wars, the Native Americans, the Jews, the Africans. A big mausoleum. The mall of mausoleums. I asked “Who's next?”

She cried. My love, Honey she said, it's going to be alright. Oohh! Oooh! It's not how many days you live. But how you live those days. Is there a storm coming? Mama GiGi? I asked. She said, honey, it is here. My love. This is the storm.

Oooh! Oooh! Honey! Don't you worry! We'll get through it. It's not how many days you live. But how you live those days. She'd camp pained for Trump for her two aborted babies. She'd dropped them but in heaven, Jesus would pick them up and she would be united with them. She had been promised that. I went wrong at 16 and I'm all right at 60. Jesus has me. I'm beautiful! Thank God for under wire bras she said. You're looking at a miracle. She said. I said, that's way too easy. I'm looking at America itself.

She talked and talked and talked about Solomon, and David, and Goliath, and Ezkheil, and someone who had dropped a baby. Or picked up a dropped one. About death, and death, and death. Talk about beauty, only beauty, she said. It's not how many days you live. But how you live those days.

She'd voted for Trump for her babies. She'd been to Jerusalem where an orthodox Jew had spat on her but she had forgiven him. She had gone there to help orphans, and the elderly. And to tell them that Jesus was coming. She'd gone to Colombia and loaded up on drugs and brought them to America in her body. But Jesus had cleansed her. Picked her up entered her heart and body. Karen and Candy, needed to have a pajama party with Melania, bring her to the heart of Jesus. She said. Ooooh! Ooooh! She had cried, when she saw Hillary on TV. She looked so sad, so sick. All those years trying to please daddy, whose little girl was never good enough!

Hillary talked about her mommy. Trump he talked about his daddy. And America? It voted between Mommy and Daddy. Said, Mama GiGi. America, it picked daddy. Daddy won.

She'd spent twelve nights in a tent at 17th and Constitution. In a Spiritual God sent for born-agains. Jesus had come for her. Picked her up.

My Red Cap arrived. And as I left for my track and train I heard her loop back, to the beginning again with the next bencher. My love, honey, the tent at 17th and Constitution. Side by side, Mama Gigi and I, had sat. Shared a wooden bench. I hunched. At Union Station.