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I had just parked my car and pressed the lock button when I noticed her. The old woman on the street pushed her shopping cart, stuffed to the brim with her life’s belongings. Bags of collected cans hung off every corner. She was dirty and frail. She reminded me of my Aunt Cathy before she died. Auntie was a troubled soul who wouldn’t let anyone help her.

When the bag-lady’s cargo tipped and spilled all over the sidewalk she was trying to gain, I ran to help her. As I righted her cart, she grabbed my wrist with her grubby, gnarled hands and pulled me down to meet her face to face. I was surprised at how strong she was and how bright her eyes were. Emerald fire flecked with gold. I felt myself grow dizzy and nauseous. What was happening?

When my stomach settled, I tried to stand up straight and found I couldn’t without a sharp stabling pain. I was strong and healthy. I took care of myself. This pain didn’t feel good like a tough workout. I felt old. Something wasn’t right.

I brought my hands in front of me and saw the withered things that had held me a few moments ago. Panic rose in me as I felt my face, tracing the lines and coarseness of a life lived on the rough.

Rummaging through what apparently was now my cart, I found a broken mirror. I looked at my reflection and confirmed my dread. The emerald fire was gone and a young man’s azure blue shone back from ancient eyes.

Photo by Яick Harris