At a red light, I saw a man dragging a shopping cart while a woman, following him, was pushing another cart. Balanced between them was an enormous piece of rusted metal. At first, I thought it was a ladder, but it was dense, appeared heavy, like a section of broken train track. The thick metal had weeds hanging off it as if recently unearthed from a forgotten field or dilapidated warehouse.
The man yelled. "C'mon!! Hurry up!!"
The woman used what energy she had, but it wasn't enough. They were stalled just before the intersection. The heat from the pavement waved. He strained from pulling the massive weight on the rickety carts but managed to steer them into the center of the road. He pressed his thighs against the cart to stop the momentum of the scrap metal getting away from them. They paused until traffic cleared so they could resume the push and pull across the next two lanes.
As they waited, the woman looked around. Her head was down but her eyes scanned. She seemed sheepish, uncertain whether she should make eye contact with any of drivers or passengers in the nearby cars.
I don't know why, but I found myself willing her to look at me. I kept thinking. Just look at me. Find my eyes, lady. Over here. This way.
I didn't wave my arms or roll down my window. I just asked her to look at me. Honest to God, I have no idea why.
But then she did.
In her blue eyes, I saw sadness and embarrassment. She seemed like she was waiting for me to judge her. For me to sneer or give a dismissive, look-the-other-way head roll. No matter what I offered, she was going to accept it.
I witnessed defeat but courage.
Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I saw.
So I smiled at her and nodded. Almost like... you can do this.
Then the light turned green. The man barked a command to push. The cars behind me let off their brakes urging me to move forward.
But before I pulled away, she smiled back.