She had small hands. Frail fingers. She washed dishes in the sink every night; hot water, dish soap, made her hands worn over the years. The old woman used a steel-wool pad to clean pots and pans. Cuts and scrapes on palms.
Cast iron skillets drying on the stove. She’d pick up objects at a hundred degrees with bare hands and put them away. Stacking them above her gray head on a metal dish rack. On tip toes she would stand. Placing dishes, pots ,pans and pressure cookers all on top.
At closing time you could find the mother of two sweeping the floors of the restaurant . Sweeping clean then mopping. Wringing out hot water in a yellow bucket that said, Caution on it. She’d bend over with her back hunched. Humming, I’ll Fly Away, to herself. Not loudly, but, softly. Like a prayer.
The bus would come at midnight and take her ‘cross town. Looking at the city passing. Seeing her reflection in the window. Asking herself, How’d I get so old? She’d smile.
Walking home. Not skipping like she did in her youth. Nor a spry step. Lifting one foot then the other. Feels like walking through concrete, she whispered. Then she’d sing out, I’ll fly away, softly. When I die Hallelujah by and by…I’ll fly away. And alone. In her home. She did.
Goodnight Ms. Johnson.