The Unsolicited Blessing
witnessed by Stacey Rose
An act in one play.
First Lady of the Church of Self Righteousness Assumption
Osborne Terrace, Newark, NJ (Outside Newark Beth Israel Hospital)
(A braless young MOTHER no older than 23 labors her way down Osborne Terrace toward Newark Beth Israel Hospital. Her face is the struggle. At her hand is a tiny LITTLE GIRL, no older than two. They both have braid extensions that look to have been in about a month too long. They are, to be sure, clean. Their clothing, however, seems to have come from the nearest five and dime. The little girl’s sundress is too large. The straps are continuously falling off her shoulders. Mother’s top is being stretch to it’s ultimate tolerance with the swelling of her expectant belly. Enter coming from the opposite direction THE FIRST LADY OF THE CHURCH OF SELF RIGHTEOUS ASSUMPTION. She is a petite feminine woman. Her hair is cut in a smart cropped salt and pepper natural. Her clothing and accessories are the epitome of class and style. If one were to drift closer one would probably catch the aroma of an expensive Eau de toilette likely purchased at the nearest Lord and Taylor on credit. The three intersect. )
First Lady: Look at you!
First Lady: Awww she’s adorable!
Mother: Thank you.
First Lady: Heyyyy Baaaaby!
Little Girl: –
First Lady: How old is she?!
First Lady: Oh my god! And you’re already having another one?! Ain’t that somethin’?
First Lady: Where’s your daddy at baby?
Little Girl: –
Mother: At work. He at work.
First Lady: … oh. okay. okay.
(The first lady takes her hands and places them on the mother’s belly and begins to pray and unintelligible prayer. She moves her hands on to the little girl’s forehead and concludes the prayer.)
First Lady: Alright now. Y’all have a blessed day.
Mother: You too.
Little Girl: –
(Mother and little girl head in the opposite direction of The First Lady down Osborne Terrace. They may never see each other again. Amen.)
I’m walking back from State street in Schenectady. The evening is warm, but there’s breeze that justifies the cardigan sweater I wear more for security than warmth. The street is quiet in direct contrast to the busy stirring of addicts attempting to get one more and the parade of tired middle class workers heading in to Stewart’s to get that quart of milk their partner reminded them to get before they came home.
Me, I’m slightly oblivious. Here but not here when this voice, a soprano on a bicycle glide easily by on the opposite side of the street. He (I believe it is a he) pulls his bike to the side to make adjustments. He stops his song only briefly before remounting the bike. I pick up my pace be cause I want to take in more of that voice. I’m not even sure he’s singing in English which enhances my need to draw closer to this beautiful foreign sound. There has not been much sweet about my stay here, so this voice is welcome company. It floats in padded claps from across the street as a feather released to the world from a bird that no longer needed it.
I find myself increasing my pace even more. There is a light. He stops. “Thank God” I think. He stops. We are direct opposites. Him where I want to be, me where he is headed. I gaze at this small man. He is adjusting again, and opts not to remount his bike before crossing the street. The light changes. I stand firm, because I wish to encounter him in a safe place. He is coming toward me. He lets out just a note or two. I am disappointed because I want to be swallowed whole by the sweetness of his singing. I wanted to drown in it. Instead there is a light misting. I’ll take it. As he approaches. His face becomes thinner as if drawn by a sketch artist learning about the function of line. His hands are dainty clasped around the handle bares of the bike. He is in front of me and much to my amazement. He is a woman.
She doesn’t look up at me. She frees a note or two from the bottom of her throat. Then while looking past me she says:
“The Bible is telling the truth. You aren’t listening.”
In three more steps. She and her bike are a memory. Behind me. I unthaw and step carefully across the street, trying to understand what just happened. Trying to remember the voice. Trying to piece together the whole story.