Lady in the red coat
(an experience I had 43 years ago and have not forgotten)
It is funny how a chance meeting with someone, be it a man or woman, will stay with you for years after the encounter. I think this happens (at least to me) because these people represent some kind of archetypal situation that is common to the human condition; so I react from a deep level that stays with me for a lifetime.
I remember in 1970 I was in the Miami airport, in the Navy, with a lot of time on my hands and with very little money. I had a 9 hour lay over and was just walking around the airport people watching, something I love to do at airports. I guess at that age, I was 20 I did not have the inner resources to just sit and read or simply pray. In any case I walked past a solider who was on the phone, he saw me and waved me over. After he hung up, and were talking, we found that we were waiting for the same plane out. He had an idea to hitchhike to the city to kill time. I thought it was better than hanging around the airport; so off we went.
We got into the city and went into a bar for a drink. While there, we both noticed a man and woman were having an argument over something. I did not pay much attention, and with my new found friend we listened to the Jazz band that was playing. After a couple of hours we decided to hitchhike back to the airport, since it was getting late, and we were worried we might not be able to get a ride back.
We left and were walking towards the Inter-State, when we noticed the woman from the bar. She was very pretty, and dressed in a long red coat that reached down to her ankles. She looked stunned, and was just wandering around the block, which by the way was not in the best part of town. My new found friend and I become worried for her, and went over to see if we could help. We went slowly, so as not to frighten her, since we were strangers. Her face was streaked with tears, and she looked liked she was sucker punched, dazed and not seeming to care that she was in a dangerous part of the city. I asked her if there was anything we could do for her. Call her a cab, or perhaps walk her to her car, if she had one nearby. She just looked at us, and told us that there was nothing we could do for her, and to please leave her alone. She was not rude about it, but just telling us in a very matter of fact way. I did not want to leave her but really we had no choice, she did not want help.
We continued our journey to the airport, it took us three hours; people even back then were afraid to pick people up.
That woman, her sorrow, her shock, and her not wanting any help has never left me. For years after this event I would often see her face when I was praying, or in meditation. It would come unannounced and I would often pray for her and for all those like her. I think she did represent for me the plight of many people who are used, and put aside, alone, who seek love but never really find it. I often wonder were she is, if she is ok, and more importantly if she found someone who would give her the love that she so desired. One person can be a symbol, a sign that points to the existential plight of mankind, and how we often knowingly or unknowingly or the cause of that plight. A simple act of kindness or cruelty can have repercussions that can last a lifetime. I suppose all of our actions are like seeds that will one day bear fruit either for good or evil.
Lady in the red coat