I’ve seen so many items that stay in their unpaired locations for extended periods of time that when an item is only in a spot very briefly it can stand out. This gray wool mitten was on the curb when I took this picture in the early afternoon, but was gone when I walked past the spot less than an hour later.
As I pondered that short duration and thought about how the mitten appeared to be fairly new, I decided that it could have been the replacement for the Gold Glitten . And that it had helped that young woman take one more healing step.
At 12:54 PM on 18 February 2018 a silver 2003 VW Passat station wagon turned north onto Van Buren Street from eastbound Third Street. The car stopped next to a man who was crouched, all elbows and knees, half on and half off the curving curb on the northeast corner with a camera in his hand. The passenger window slid down and a female voice from inside said, “What is it this time?”
The man twisted on the balls of his feet and turned his head over his left shoulder. His left hand quickly stabbed the concrete next to his foot as he started to tilt that way. He said, “A mitten!” as he pushed with his left hand to tilt himself back onto the balls of his feet.
Neither the driver nor the crouching man noticed the woman on the sidewalk 3/4 of the block east of them stop and turn when the man said “mitten.” When she was facing directly west, she pushed a hand into each pocket of her navy blue wool coat. Just under a second later both hands reemerged into the cold afternoon air. The right hand held a gray mitten. The left was empty. She looked at the empty hand. The woman said, “Damn.” as she raised her head and watched the Volkswagen move away northbound. She stood and watched the man as he manipulated a camera near the ground for 17 more seconds.
She shook her head and said, “No.”
When the lanky man put the camera into a pack at his feet and began to stand up, she started walking back east toward the corner. Eleven seconds later, the two passed each other on the sidewalk.
. . .
Sixteen minutes earlier, the young woman in the navy blue wool coat was walking eastbound on the north side of Third Street in front of the 1912 Center. Her steps landed almost exactly at half-second intervals as she passed the east end of concrete retaining wall in front of the building.
Approaching Van Buren Street, her head snapped 19 degrees to the right. In the direction her face had turned, a block and a half east, a young man in gray sweatshirt and worn jeans came down the wooden steps of a house on the south side of Third Street.
Less than a second later, an inhalation stopped with a slight snapping noise as the young woman’s eyelids opened wide and her mouth closed. As she stepped onto the pavement of Van Buren Street, a brief gurgle came from deep in the back of her mouth. Her hands, clad in gray mittens, rose from her waist. The right hand pressed against her right cheek while the left curled gently around her throat. She took three more quick steps before her right toe slapped against the curb, touching the line where yellow paint ended on the gray concrete.
A block and a half east, a car door thudded closed.
She began to tilt forward. Her left thigh suddenly lifted to almost to a 90 degree angle with her body and the left foot shot forward. Almost immediately, the foot landed on the grass just past the curb as her upper body continued to tilt forward. Then both hands shot forward and down, thudding into the grass and simultaneously forming two corners of an equilateral triangle with the ball of the left foot as the third.
A block and a half east, a car engine cranked briefly and then started smoothly.
Her upper body seemed to convulse slightly as a quiet, low squeak radiated gently from her throat. No air moved past her lips. She pushed off the grass with her right hand. As it lifted, her body pivoted clockwise over her left foot. Her center of gravity transferred quickly and her body twisted in front of her left hand and arm. Less than a quarter-second later, her butt made contact with the curb, left arm behind her. Her right hand came back up to her throat and her upper body convulsed more violently as her mouth opened wide.
A blue Audi rolled by westbound on Third Street.
The young woman’s left hand shot up and stabbed into the pocket of her coat. It emerged a moment later with a smartphone cradled in the gray wool of the palm of the mitten. She raised her right hand, also clad in a gray knit wool and her eyes went very wide. Then she raised the hand further and her mouth came forward and bit the top of the mitten. The arm jerked downward and the hand emerged from the mitten. She twitched her chin to the left and opened her teeth and the mitten flew and landed atop the curb. Her right index finger stabbed at the side of the phone and then swiped up on the screen. The finger tapped four times and then once. The phone vibrated slightly in her hand. Her mouth opened wide and seemed to vibrate as well; her eyes widened, causing two tears to fall from her left eye onto the screen of the phone.
The blue Audi stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk at Jefferson Street, two blocks west.
The young woman’s right index finger moved to the screen again. It trembled as it tapped the screen, moved, tapped, moved, tapped, moved, tapped, moved, hovered uneasily for a moment and tapped. She hunched forward slightly as the screen changed. She then tapped on an icon shaped like a phone handset. The screen changed again and the shaky right index finger tapped on a square with a young woman’s face and the label “Lacey”.
The young woman’s eyes were fixed on the screen. Two more tears fell onto it and rolled down the glowing glass. Eleven seconds after the last tap, a small, soprano voice came from the speaker on the phone: “Where are you? I have donuts!” The young woman’s eyes closed and a moment later, a shrill scraping chirp came from her still opened mouth.
“Are you alright?” came from the phone. After just under a second, the voice on the phone said, “Oh, God. Breathe, sweetheart. You’re having a panic attack, aren’t you.” The young woman’s chin began to nod up and down quickly. Five tears splattered onto the screen.
“You have to breathe, hun. Remember what works? Force that breath OUT first”
Still nodding, the young woman squeezed her eyelids tightly closed and she hunched forward, curving her chest and shoulders over the phone. A hissing started deep in the back of her wide open mouth. The noise grew for a moment then with a sudden shudder she coughed weakly. Her back straightened and she made a rattling slurp as air rushed past her soft palate into her trachea for the first time in 64 seconds.
The next exhalation was a sob as she raised the phone to her ear. She cycled three deep fast breaths before she said, “He came out of that house practically right in front of me.”
She listened to the phone for just under two minutes. Her breathing slowed and evened. She nodded occasionally. She said “no” twice. She said “yes” three times. She said “you’re right” three times. And she said, “yes. It’s been getting better” once at the end of the conversation. As the young woman put her phone into the right hand pocket of her coat, she stood up. She was facing south, looking at the white picket fence across the street. She turned her head to the right almost 90 degrees. She then turned her head to the left and looked at a point north-northeast of her. Seven seconds later, she nodded her chin down and up once and stepped up onto the sidewalk. She started east.
. . .
The one mitten was clutched in the young woman’s right hand when she reached the curb at the end of the sidewalk at Van Buren Street 18 seconds after she passed the lanky man. She planted her left foot on the grass, pivoted on it and dropped her right foot down onto the street. She bent at the waist and reached with her bare left hand to pluck the gray mitten from the yellow-painted concrete. She straightened and looked at the white picket fence across the street from her. She turned her head 40 degrees to her left and then quickly back and down to the gray wool in her hand. She took in a breath, exhaled and took in another. She held it briefly. “Not one more thing,” she said.
She looked up and to the left again and said, in the same low tone, “I’m not going to lose one more damn thing.”