"Excuse me, but do you have another backpack?"
Because the one hidden, worn flush beneath her jacket, is giving out.
Leana Lore sits every day on the wooden benches, somewhere on or around the corner from bustling W 81st and Columbus Ave. 'Bustling,' in this case, means heavy side-walking foot traffic of strollers, dogs, or anyone wearing Patagonia garments.
From Russia, Leana Lore waits for the UN, (which she unremarkably notes is behind us in the Excelsior Hotel) to bring her back to her mother country. She spent the past couple years in the Staten Island penitentiary, with her family.
I offer Ms. Lore a blue shoe bag (the type to preserve dress shoes) and a white cheesecloth bag for carrying (caddying, perhaps?) castell soap.
A cane-wielding elderly woman stops intently to donate a pint container of Salad Greens. And not in the least provoked by a quiet Lore! Leana kindly takes the offering, using her own fork to spear the lettuce mix.
Thank you's and your welcomes are exchanged, and Ms. Lore appears ready to dive right into her newly procured healthy meal.
She pauses as the final column of ash begins to fall from the butt of her cigarette. She leaps, panicked, from the plastic mattress encasing covering her park bench. She marks a clear and invisible trajectory and plants feet behind her center of gravity. She then hurls with great force, gusto - and a certain deft - the leafy green contents of the container. She does this all in silence.
Harrumphing back to her seat, Ms. Lore discards the plastic silverware-cum-spork package. It is only now that she seats herself back down.
"You know some people don't know how to pick their vegetables.
There was a purple something in that salad. It was a weed (author's note: it was radicchio) and in Russia, we used to have gardens of lettuce with weeds all around it, and you didn't eat the weeds."
"Me?" she asks without my prompting. "I like vegetables, but only the ones you know are vegetables. I like carrots, celery, and that sort of stuff. You know they're real veggies. But I wanted to show courtesy so I said 'thanks' and took the greens."
I remain silent, letting marinate the wild course of action just observed.
"...But anyway, I don't mean to interrupt, I'll let you get back to your stuff. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
"No it's okay. Don't be sorry. I actually used to work at that store right there: Patagonia."
Her eyes widen in acknowledgment. A connection.
"Is it still owned by Blacks?"
Leana Lore still has some of her teeth. She wears many watches, ranging glamorous to g-shock. Her appearance usually consists of Adidas sweat pants and black, suede, ankle lace-up shoes. Commonly referred to as the "Bag Lady," Leana Lore is open to discussion, bumming cigarettes, and making small talk.