I passed her going the other way and wondered how far she had to go. There were no sidewalks, so she teetered along the white line on a narrow, but busy city street.
I checked to see if anyone was going to run into me before I swung Finn (that’s the name of my car) around in a commercial parking entrance and pulled up to her.
Lowering the window, I asked her, “Do you want a ride?”
She smiled. She may have no understanding of most English words, but she knew she was getting an offer of transportation and shook her head up and down as she opened the passenger door.
I cleared my shopping bags off her seat, throwing them in the back and started up in the direction she had been walking.
“Where are we going?” I said, and she smiled and nodded. "OK," I was thinking, "this is going to be tougher than I thought…."
“Straight?” I asked as I pointed down the road. “Street,” she answered, nodding. I continued to try to talk to her (and no, I didn’t raise my voice, thinking that might help her to understand).
Finally, when I asked her where she was from, she understood. “Syria,” she said softly. So now I knew or I think I know why she has that hanging-on-by-her-fingernails look. “Where are your children?”…I made rocking the baby motions. “School,” she said. I said, “they’ll do very well here.” This time I was smiling and nodding and she smiled, showing a need for dental work that she is too poor right now to get.
Against a back drop of the execution of more than 150 women in one town for refusing to “marry” ISIS militants, she is lucky. But how lucky would any of us feel having been ripped from our homes and inserted into a community that cannot communicate with us, that suspects us, and to whom we are strangers in every possible way.
With hand signaled directions I managed to get her to her apartment—more than a mile from where I had picked her up.
As we sat for a moment in front of her apartment, I could actually feel the softness and sorrow in her heart, and I noticed she has beautiful eyes. (BTW, the picture above is not Rehab, but boy, does it look like her.)
Anyway, before she got out of my car, she said "cafe?" I must have looked puzzled, because she began to mime picking up an invisible china cup from the "saucer" of her outstretched palm. She was asking me in for coffee.
I had to decline, I was headed to an appointment. She was thanking me profusely. "Thank you Madam, thank you," she said over and over. I told her my name was Nancy and she told me her's was Rehn. We exchanged phone numbers and I left. Now, regretting that I didn't take the time to just be with her, even if it did mean another twenty minutes of sign language.
When I picked her up, I admit, I had very little idea where we were headed and I don’t really know where Rehab and I go from here. But one thing is certain, we'll see each other again.