At sundown one spring afternoon, in New York City’s West Village, we sat on a bench. We held hands and talked about our pasts.
I asked her, “How did you end up in New York?” She told me of a night in Châlons-en-Champagne when a stranger left a thousand euros as a tip for her, in the restaurant she worked, and this is what made it possible for her to come to New York. A stranger whose face she only remembers ennobled by a hat, whose jacket smelt of stale beer, and who’d asked about her plans. In another setting he’d be deemed a vagrant.
While she spoke of a stranger, a woman appeared in the Jewish cemetery opposite us, standing beside tombstones last engraved in the 1890s. She resembled a cook who steps out of a kitchen to get some air. Her apron was made from fabric used to wrap a newborn or corpse in parts of Senegal. The woman stepped closer to the bars that cordoned the cemetery from the passageway. Seeing us stare, she waved at us. We smiled and waved back. “Could she have known,” my friend asked me, “about the shroud?”
“What’s new in your life,” I asked instead.