Somehow I ended up in China outside of Beijing at the "Ba-Da-Ling" section of the Great Wall on a tour bus with mostly retired Americans. The GREAT WALL was awesome and packed with tourists. Anyway, the lady behind me on the bus gets to talking and turns out she's 85 years old - looks 65 - and made it higher up the wall than I did. This doesn't bother me; I've been out done by many an old lady and respect them greatly. We chit-chat and she tells me her life synopsis in a soft staccato story. "Mary Orvitz" - from Missouri - retired grade school teacher - lived there all her life - (mentions some county I've never heard of)
"Hey, I've been to Cape Girardeau in Missouri - The Mississippi River and its great flood walls - my best friend and husband lived there for 5 years - visited them twice - nice place"
"Actually I live in Cape Girardeau!! What were their names?"
"The Spratts - Anne and Rardy. - professor at the University"
"Nope, nope, no, never heard of them"
Not an unexpected end to the conversation; but enjoyable.
The scenery out the bus window coming down the mountain was green and fresh, and relaxing. It was a scene for pondering, and I was....when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard the same soft reminiscing voice.
"Kind of a tallish girl - I think - dark brown hair...yes that's it..moved to Chattanooga or someplace down Tennessee...lovely girl...had a cute baby girl too - right? They got a son too. Really nice family. I used to swim with her at the town pool - couple times a week - in the early morning. A sweet girl. Was she able to get a job - must have been tough after having the second child?
I just keep staring at her quietly as she described my best friends' family as if they were hers and thinking to myself .... I didn't know she swam!
I told Mary all she wanted to know about Anne and Rardy since they left Missouri - the beautiful kids - the university - the house - the jobs.
"Does she still swim?"
"Yeah, I think so", I lied, because Mary had climbed higher up the Great Wall than I had.
John Del Ferro /Taegu,Korea/19MAY97