She brought her children to Sidewalk Sunday School. I thought she looked familiar, but she made no move to approach me. She chose instead to talk to Ms. Betty. That didn’t strike me as odd. Sidewalk has several different volunteers and people are drawn to each of us for different reasons.
She returned the next week. I kept looking at her. There was something familiar about her, but I didn’t know why. She couldn’t have been one of my former students. The kids from my first class would all be 17 and 18 now. She was too old, in her mid-20’s, at least. I approached her and introduced myself. She didn’t offer her name, and hurried away.
When the prayer requests were turned in, she asked for prayer for her mother. She gave her mother’s name, but not her own. She said her mother was very ill, and didn’t seem to be getting better.
She came early last Saturday. While I played catch with Moncey, the woman stared at me. She blushed when she realized I’d noticed. I walked over to her. “How is your mother?”
She shrugged, “Maybe better, but keep praying.” I told her I would, and started to turn away. She said, “Miss…” but shook her head and shrugged her right shoulder when I looked back.
That gesture was very familiar to me. I felt my eyes widen. “What is your name?” I asked her, but I already knew. We both said it at the same time, “Juana.” She was one of my former students.
“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked her, meaning two weeks ago, or the week before that even.
She shrugged again and waved her hand at me. “You look all different. Your hair. And your name. Your name is different.”
My name is different. I changed it when I divorced. My hair used to be very short, and platinum blonde. And back then I wore contacts.
Then she asked, “Why didn’t you recognize me?”
I replied, “You’ve grown up.” But that wasn’t it. She is at most 18 years old, and she has two children, ages 3 and 4. Her face is lined. Her eyes are sad. And she holds her shoulders as though the weight of the world rests on them.