Ok, it is really cold now. A couple of flurries, the clouds keep building and dissipating, the sun is bright and the sky is very blue. Clear. Not a lot between us and outer space on days like this. Or maybe I have it backwards.
Either way, I went to pick up my prescription at Medicine Shoppe on South Grand (where, if they had Saturday hours, I would get all my prescriptions filled. Alas that kids get sick on weekends, too). Then went up to Pius to water plants and flowers. The place was a mess--I guess the Monday Morning Ladies got the day off yesterday with the government employees. So Maeve and I cleaned up a little, I left a note for our custodian to please throw away the leftover poinsettias in the back of church (the dead red ones that folks didn't take on Sunday--most did walk out after mass, which was wonderful).
Then I left to pick up Sophia. She gets out at 3:30 and I have to drive past Adams School, and then cross Chouteau and loop around to Taylor. Anyway, it is school crossing guard time, the Time of the Bus, and as I turn onto Newstead to do the loop around to Taylor, it is obvious that a bunch of middle schoolers have just been dropped off. They're a couple of blocks in front of me, 4 girls and 2 boys, and they're parting ways. Everyone heads east except for one boy dressed only in a brown sweater and jeans. He stands in the middle of Newstead talking to them angrily.
Now, I don't fly down any of these roads. I do have a lead foot, but it is reserved for highway driving, and Des Peres Blvd, Forest Park Blvd--the hidden highways of St. Louis. I don't fly down neighborhood streets because I live on a neighborhood street right off Grand and I live in terror of one of these 28 kids on my block getting hit by a car on the corner. It's not even conscious anymore. I just don't speed on neighborhood streets. I pass this kid, I'm going 20, and he's 5 feet away from me. But suddenly, it's like I've just hit his kitten. He runs and hits my van, yells at me in a surprisingly deep voice, and then makes a gun gesture, you know, pretend you're playing Starsky and I'm Hutch. Lean over the car and make the gun gesture. Aims his fingers at me. Lovely. So nice to share the city with you.
But then after Sophia is safely in my car and no angry teenagers are threatening my van, I'm heading down South Grand. Grand falls apart in a couple of places--it is good through the business districts, through the SLU areas, through the neighborhoods further south, but it loses a sense of place between, oh, Water Tower Park and Tower Grove Park. There are some businesses, a decrepit grocery store, some high rises--but it doesn't pull together the way it does in other spots. And there are bus stops along this area that attract large groups of people waiting for trips home.
As I stop at a stoplight, an older woman catches my eye. Eastern European--I'd guess Russian but probably Bosnian here in St. Louis. She looks like she just walked out of Novosibirsk with Oleg. Hunched over, shawl over her head, a stout woman who was once tall. Dressed in beiges and browns. Layered. She has one of those ancient shopping carts, the type that fold up for the bus so you can bring home your onions and beets. No glasses, but this round benign starchy face. We catch each other's glance, and she grins at me. Her teeth glint in the sun and nearly blind me. She has a mouth full of gold. Or aluminum. Something shiny. I smile back at her and continue down Grand.
I don't know what this means--probably not much--but they were both such odd encounters I had to share.