Of course they cannot figure out what is going on in here. Forty-five minutes and the OCCUPIED sign is still on. Passengers are kicking the door and yelling are you taking a bath? At least she doesn't hear them. She is concentrating. Her tiny hearing aides hidden by her hair are no more functional than cowrie shells. She is not disabled, others are. She mouths nebekh, shaking her head when she sees a blind man with a seeing eye dog, or watches a teenager in an electric wheelchair whizzing by, although "she walks so slowly she could be standing still," a phrase my father would intone waiting impatiently for her down the block. [End Page 71] In these cramped quarters she is all efficiency. She sits on the closed toilet bowl, Millie's lacquerware tray and the mortar on her lap. She mashes her pills with the pestle. I am allowed to fill a plastic cup with water, snap the tab off a can of liquid nutrition. She is smiling as she unfurls the peg tub jutting from her belly and deftly crowns it with her funnel and pours. All items are dried and stashed away in a Meier & Frank shopping bag. We emerge as normal as everyone else buckled-up in their seats, who like us, later, or sooner will die.

Willa Schneberg

Willa Schneberg received the 2002 Oregon Book Award In Poetry for In The Margins of The World, Plain View Press. Her next collection of poetry "Storytelling in Cambodia" is forthcoming from Calyx Books, Spring '06. She judged the 15th Annual Reuben Rose Poetry Competition sponsored by Voices Israel, and, went to Israel in December 2004, to participate in the Awards Ceremony. She is the originator and coordinator of the Oregon Jewish Writers Series at the Oregon Jewish Museum, Portland, where her clay sculpture of Judaica has been exhibited. She is a congregant of P'nai Or in Portland and a member of Brit Tzedek V'Shalom.


nebekh: Yiddish expression meaning "unlucky, pitiable person" [End Page 72]

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