I called her Mandy because none of us knew her name, except those close to her.
She was our honorary mascot in our community of 2,200 homes comprised of condominiums, single family homes, attached homes, and apartments. We knew who she was, we all had seen her and just the mention of her, everyone knew who we were referring to.
She was all of us sister, friend, cousin, mother, aunt. She was everyone’s long lost family member, the one none of us met but heard about.
Mandy was a fixture in our neighborhood. We didn’t know how tall she was because we could not tell. She never stood straight and might have once in her life but as far as we could remember, she always bent to the right possibly due to a spine malady. There was definitely a story but it was foreigner to most of us.
We didn’t know if she was married or had kids as she lived a solitary life. We never saw her with a family member except for the one day at church when I saw her surrounded by some people presumably family members.
We never met her friends or knew of her childhood.
We knew she lived at the house across the street because her car was always parked there but we didn’t know if she shared it with anyone as we never saw a single person outside of the house, except for this week when I saw a man opening the hood of her car.
We knew she owned a car because we saw it parked in front of the house. Parking was always a challenge and Fittipaldi had nothing on her but she managed. There were more dents on those bumpers then Jesse James’s tattoos.
We knew she could drive because she drove her Toyota Carolla everywhere; you name it, to the supermarket, to the post office, to the park across the street, to wherever… to run her errands, to buy her groceries… to the park.
Lately, she walked more and more everywhere and always carrying a bag. Perhaps, driving became a little dangerous and cumbersome to her but sun or rain, she was out there.
We often saw her jogging, even though she needed not to. She was extremely skinny, borderline boneless, anorexia skinny. She would jam to her own pace. She would mechanically sway her arms back and forth, to the left, to the right as if she was dancing the twist while her legs uncoordinatedly would go up and down as if marching.
Her attire was the most interesting of all. She always wore these unique clothes, not what we would find at our local department store or wear to church but what our grandma would wear for a day on the beach to escape from the sun.
The clothes were mostly baggy and uncoordinated. Color was not an excuse or objection and type was never discriminated. She wore them all. The skirts often sat way above her waist and dresses past her knees. Pants of all types were paraded and shorts made Magic Johnson look like Shaquille O’Neal never missing her tennis shoes and her colorful socks wore always up to her knees, long enough to make any little girl happy.
I found out she was extremely funny, a jokester as I heard her cracking some jokes with the clerk at the supermarket.
She often chatted cheerfully to herself; we did not comprehend it but understood it then again who amongst us have never done that before but off course, not as often as she did.
No one knew how old she was but we all knew she had to be up there.
She was innocent and extremely independent. She never made excuses for her illness or made that an excuse and for that, we worried.
We worried when she drove that she would get into an accident. We worried when she was jogging that she would fall and hurt herself. We worried that someone would have mistaken her for a crazy old lady, a lunatic and cause her arm. We worried she would not find her way back home. We worried she would be hit by a car while crossing the streets. We worried and worried with reasons and last Saturday night, we no longer needed to worry. Our fears came true.
Carole, yes that was her real name I learned, never came home. She was hit by a car while crossing the big intersection in front of our development, the very same path she had taken many times before. Perhaps, coming from the supermarket or the park or running errands. She never woke up. She died instantly.
The dreadful news came like a powerful tornado, an earthquake. No one expected it but no one was surprised either. The worst was knowing that the driver who hit her was also our “neighbor”, a resident of our development. We always muttered that if there was ever a chance of that happening, we hoped it would be at hands of some stranger and not a “family member”. But it happened and that’s what makes this story a little heavier and more despairing.
Ms Carole despite her pitfalls was her own person, an individual. She would drive, jog, smile, she would joke like the rest of us. She was always gracious, friendly. She always minded her own business. She would not hurt, talk back or insult anyone. She was she!
In conversations with others at the gym, I learned that miss Carole was a Physical Ed teacher in her hay days thus her liking for sports. Word on the street, she was in her early 60’s but that is left for debate, and the woman I saw her with in church the other day, was not her sister but her mother.
There was always conversations that she was not altogether; she was out there, a fruit-loop, cookie, nuts that perhaps, she had cerebral palsy but someone mentioned that she was none other than an anorexic. Hum, I have my doubts but we will leave it as that. Perhaps, we will learn more later.
I can not phantom what miss Carole went through, what her last minutes were, her last seconds… what she was doing, what she was thinking, what she felt. I can not but I know for sure that I will miss her.
I remember wrestling with myself not to rattle her or appear as if I was intruding or disrespectful while I was taking her picture. The reason why I never snapped them from the front but always from the back and always from my car. Perhaps, I should have asked her nicely or stalked her and just maybe, just maybe I would have had a better picture but I didn’t and I am disappointed.
I last saw her on Friday afternoon, a week ago, around 1:13PM, close to where she was hit. She was leaning on the condominium walls, a sub-division in our community, her head down, her right hand on her right knee as if taking a minute break from walking. She appeared tired, beaten…!
Rest In Peace miss Carole. You are with the angels now. I am glad to have “known” you. God bless!