As I exited the train at Roosevelt Island, a thick white fog covered the city across the river. Squinting, I tried to locate the Empire State Building as I stood waiting for the bus to take me home.
A woman quickly approached me and broke my concentration. “Habla usted español?” she asked. “No, I am sorry” I said while shaking my head. I had taken one semester of Spanish during my senior year in college and only retained the phrase “vacaciones de primavera” (spring break!).
The woman stayed at my side and attempted to speak English, but I was unable to understand her. Somehow, I managed to communicate to her that she was at the bus stop and needed a quarter to ride.
Soon, a young girl stood next to me. The woman asked the girl if she spoke Spanish and within seconds the two were having a conversation. I began to walk away, but the girl called after me and asked if I knew where 4 River Road was on the island. I told her that I lived next to the address and offered to show the woman to the apartment. The girl conveyed the message, as the woman smiled and put her arm around me.
As quickly as the woman spoke, the girl translated. “She just moved here from the Dominican Republic,” the girl said. “This is her first day of work as a caretaker and she doesn’t want to be late. She says this is her only chance at having a good life.” As I began to assure the girl that I would take the woman to the correct address, I was interrupted. “She says that we are her guardian angels,” my interpreter stated.
When the bus arrived, the girl walked away and left the woman with me. She sat at the front of the bus with her hand firmly planted on the seat next to her. As I walked towards her she patted the seat, motioning for me to sit down.
The mile long ride took longer than usual. We tried to carry on the conversation from the bus stop, but it wasn’t working very well. When we arrived at 4 River Road, we exited the bus and I pointed to the building. Like old friends departing, she gave me a firm hug goodbye.
As I walked home, I noticed that the fog was even thicker than before. I began to think that the haze was not much different than our language barrier. Even though I couldn’t see the city, I had faith in its existence.