If you’ve read My Love Affair with Dunkin Donuts’ Bathroom, you know that I spent some time without running water during the renovation of my house.
It was during this period where I spent some extra time at a Dunkin’ Donuts, getting coffee, donuts, sandwiches, using the bathroom, washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc. I continued to go to Dunkin’ twice a day even after I got a working bathroom because I still didn’t have a kitchen, Bathroom or Kitchen Sink, Who Can Tell?, and anyway, it became part of my routine to go there, still is.
During my frequent Dunkin’ visits I was befriended by a Pakistani worker there, I’ll call her Sajida. True to being the stereotypical “Ugly American” I never felt like I properly pronounced her name, though I loved the way she said mine.
Sajida was there every night when I went in for the evening visit. She was very sweet. As soon as she saw my car drive up she fixed my coffee just the way I like it and filled a bag with free donuts. It was usually pretty empty at night, which allowed us to chat. Her English wasn’t very good; still, she asked me a lot of questions about myself and when I didn’t understand she made hand gestures to help me out. She met all of my children and asked if I had a husband. I told her “not anymore.” She told me I should get a new man. She always had a smile for me and usually a compliment, wondering how I stayed so skinny after having all the kids. See Confessions of a Skinny Mom. Still, she noticed when I looked particularly tired (it was a rough time) and would ask if I was “okay.”
“You tired? You look tired.” She’d say sometimes.
Other times she’d talk about herself, saying, “I’m so fat. I want to be skinny like you.” She wasn’t “fat,” by the way, she was shapely, and healthy looking. She was quite pretty.
I learned that she was 28-years-old and had two children back home in Pakistan who were living with her mother. She sent money to them. She lived here alone in a little apartment which she said she enjoyed because it was so clean and quiet, not like back home. She said she had been married to her first cousin, who wasn’t nice to her. “It wasn’t good,” she said, solemnly. Her children were both disabled, with birth defects, one was blind and I’m not sure what the other child’s challenges were, but she said they both needed medical attention. I couldn’t help but wonder whether being so closely related to her husband could have been the cause.
One day after getting my coffee I turned to leave and Sajida called me back. My children were not with me.
The men in the store were working in the back and largely ignored us.
She told me, “I’m pregnant.”
“Oh,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. She hadn’t made this announcement as happy news.
She said, “I need help. I need pill.”
“Pill?” I thought it was a little late for birth control, but maybe I had misunderstood . . .
“Pill, I don’t want to be pregnant. Where can I get pill. Will you help me? Will you buy Pill for me?”
“Oh,” I said, again. Now I understood.
I haven’t had to think about pregnancy in years. My tubes have been tied since I last gave birth. “The Abortion Pill” or “The Morning After Pill” were not around in my unmarried youth. The only pills I had experience with were birth control pills. Still, my limited knowledge about these other pills was that they were something taken immediately after unprotected sex and/or at the very least, there is a small window of opportunity where such “pills” could prevent pregnancy or the continuation of a pregnancy.
I pondered what to say. There was a language barrier. I didn’t want to be responsible for or influence her decision, I didn’t want to misunderstand her intent.
I just wanted coffee . . . and some small talk. Truth is, I looked forward to seeing her every day. Though I didn’t really know and sometimes couldn’t understand her, I thought of Sajida as my friend. It was during a time where I had little interaction with other adults. My family refused to come to my home, as our living conditions were so bad. The friends and former neighbors — “angels” — who had helped me initially, had finished the first round of work, and I was waiting for the professionals to take over while I organized and cleaned. The children were tiring of the conditions, and I had to pretend that everything was okay. But Sajida smiled when she saw me. I needed that, truly.
Still, as I stood at the Dunkin’ Donuts counter, I wasn’t prepared for this.
Sajida added, “I asked another lady but she wouldn’t help me.”
That almost broke my heart. The thought of this sweet woman asking random Dunkin’ Donuts customers for help with an unwanted pregnancy — and that she had been refused?
Shit, I thought. I don’t want to be that lady, the kind of woman who would refuse to help another woman in trouble, someone reaching out for assistance.
“No one will help me,” Sajida continued, gesturing to her co-workers, also Pakistani, but male. “I don’t want to go to my people. I can’t have another baby. My children are too much. I’m afraid there will be something wrong.”
Here she was in a strange country, her challenged children far away, and pregnant when she didn’t want to be.
I decided I would help her.
At the very least I could get her to a doctor so she can know all of her options. Maybe she’s not even pregnant, I hoped; Maybe she’s too far along, I feared. I mean I didn’t know any of the details for sure.
I asked her, “Are you sure you’re pregnant?”
She said, “Yes,” explained that missed her period, and made the throwing up gesture. “Just like before I’m sick like before. Will you help? I have money. I can pay you,” she added.
Pay me? “No, don’t worry about that. Let’s get you to a doctor,” I said.
My mind was reeling. What if she’d asked someone who would have actually taken her money? And throwing up? God, I thought, how far along is she? No pill is going to help her now.
“Okay,” I said, “Just let me get some information. Please don’t take anything. I don’t think you can do that now. Just wait, okay?”
I left in disbelief, muttering to myself. Why, I thought, why do people feel comfortable telling me such private things? I couldn’t believe that I’d gone for coffee and was presented with a request for assistance in ending an unwanted pregnancy. But I guess I hadn’t just gone for coffee, I’d gone for company.
And I thought I had problems. I was broke, my house I shared with five children was barely livable and I was going through a nasty divorce. But at least I wasn’t pregnant.
This much I understood: It was clear that Sajida was not going to have this baby. The only question was how she was going to end her pregnancy and whether she would do it safely.
I’d told her I’d come back tomorrow. That night I called my best friend, who happens to be a gynecologist, and explained the situation. She confirmed what I already knew, that this woman needs to see a doctor immediately and will likely have to have an abortion to end the pregnancy, if that’s her intent. The next day I called Planned Parenthood and found out where she could go to see a doctor, confirm the pregnancy and talk about options, whether they might have a translator, and how that whole waiting period thing works.
It had been years, but I am no stranger to Planned Parenthood. I’d gone to Planned Parenthood to get on the pill before I lost my virginity. When I couldn’t go to my parents, Planned Parenthood was there. I had continued to use Planned Parenthood until well after I was married — until I eventually got my own private insurance. I felt comfortable sending Sajida there. I would have sent her there for affordable prenatal care if she’d planned on having the baby.
The next day I went to Dunkin’ Donuts and gave Sajida a telephone number and address, explained where she should go, and when, and that after she was seen by a doctor she would have to go back another day for the procedure. She was familiar with the location and said she could get there easily. She planned to take a bus to the clinic on her next available day off at the end of the week.
She thanked me profusely.
In the next couple of days I saw her again. She looked horrible, said she wasn’t feeling well and was still throwing up. She wasn’t as chatty as she had been on previous visits.
Days passed. The next time I saw her, I simply asked, “How are you?”
“Good,” she said, “Not pregnant. There was blood. ” She gestured to her lower regions, “There was blood, a lot of blood. I’m not pregnant anymore.”
“Oh, you miscarried? You — you — lost the baby?”
“Yes,” she smiled.
“And you don’t have to — do anything? “
“No, not pregnant anymore. I woke up, there was blood.” She seemed relieved.
“Still,” I said, “You should go to the doctor anyway, because you have to make sure you’re okay. Sometimes they have to — do stuff after you lose a baby. And you should go on the pill or get some birth control.”
Though the abortion talk had made me uncomfortable, I have no problem whatsoever telling a woman to get some birth control.
“Yes, yes,” she promised.
“Okay, you’re okay?” I asked.
I was relieved, for a lot of reasons.
We didn’t talk about it again. She did ask me for assistance later, this time in programming her cell phone. I was happy to help with that.
Over the months that followed Sajida’s English improved greatly. Almost a year later Sajida told me she was engaged and would be traveling back to Pakistan to marry. I must have looked shocked because she quickly explained, “No, it’s good. He’s nice.”
She added, “Someday you’ll meet someone, too.” She’d always encouraged me to date, one of the few who did.
I never saw her again. I think of her often, though.
Just the other day as I was leaving Dunkin’ Donuts, a very cute young Indian man who had waited on me called me back to ask me a question.
I was a little afraid.
Turns out he just wanted to know how much I pay for medical insurance since Dunkin’ Donuts does not provide it, even for full-time workers. For most people it may have seemed like an overly personal question. For me? Well, I was just relieved it was a question with an easy answer.
Just Me With . . . coffee, donuts and some information.
I’m a sensitive sort. I’ve delayed writing and publishing this post for fear of the criticism for assisting a woman who wished to terminate her pregnancy. Some might argue that I should have tried to talk her out of it, that I should have pointed her to an organization that would have tried to talk her out of it, or that I should have simply refused, like the “other lady” had. But the bottom line was, she was an adult woman in a strange country, already a mother of special needs children and her decision had been made — without me. She merely asked for my help.
Was I relieved that nature took its course? Yes, yes, I was, I admit that. But if it hadn’t, at least Sajida would have received medical care and not simply paid a customer to provide her with random medications to end her pregnancy — and/or perhaps injure herself in the process.
Where ever Sajida is I hope she’s found happiness and that her new husband is nice to her.
Yesterday I saw a woman I’ve known for years, and decided to sit with her for a bit at the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts. I see her around our small town, she lives near me. She’s a recently retired school bus driver and has more time on her hands these days. She’s a talker and sometimes I don’t have time to chat but yesterday I did. I’ll call her Miss Debbie.
When I saw Miss Debbie at the counter I remembered someone’s blog post where they listed simple things we can do for others, and one of those was to listen to an elderly person talk, because sometimes they just need to.
Miss Debbie is probably in her seventies, but she’s mobile, healthy and spunky so “elderly” doesn’t seem quite right, but I guess on paper, she is.
She is also the Ex- wife of the man my Ex-mother-in-law had a long-term affair with.
Let me explain. I may have to distribute a chart later. Years ago and for a period of many years, my ex-mother-in-law was sleeping with this woman’s husband. Everybody knew. We live in a small town outside of a large city. It is a bed of gossip. The affair between my Ex-Mother-In-Law– let’s call her Shirley and Miss Debbie’s husband, who I’ll call Larry, was common knowledge.
I took the stool next to Miss Debbie and we chit-chatted for a bit. She told me about problems she was having getting work done on her house and her latest cataract surgery. I suggested a couple of contractors I know.
As always, she eventually asked if I’d seen my Ex mother-in-law, and I said, no explaining again that I don’t have any contact with her, or have any reason to have contact with her. I added that I hadn’t heard anything either way so I guess she’s okay.
Then Miss Debbie said, “It was all in my face, that was the most hurtful thing.”
Yes, I nodded. Truly that must have been horrible.
The woman who would later become my mother-in-law, Shirley, used to pull up to a nearby lot outside Miss Debbie and Larry’s house and beep her horn for him until he came out. I repeat: Shirley beeped her horn for all to hear — until Larry left the home he made with his wife and two children and went off with her. That would be a hurtin’ thing. A country song inspiring hurtin’ thing. A spit on your own porch and clean your gun hurtin’ thing. I can’t imagine.
Granted, Larry was no prize, obviously. Still, he was somebody’s husband — and this somebody was sitting next to me having coffee.
Let the record reflect: Some men do leave their wives for their mistresses. It happens. Case in point: Larry eventually left Miss Debbie, moved in with Shirley and her children, one of them being my future- and ex-husband. (ha! That sounds funny . . . but I digress . . . ) Still later, Larry married Shirley. An alcoholic, he almost missed his own wedding because he’d been out drinking the night before. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Larry and Shirley’s happy union was short-lived. Shirley eventually kicked him out but not before an “accidental” shooting . . . by Shirley . . . but I digress . . . again. This was over twenty years ago.
Debbie still lives in the same home, Shirley still lives in hers. Larry, however, died last year, I think it was liver damage, cancer, karma, whatever. His last days were spent living alone in a little apartment, his grown daughter providing assistance. His home going service (funeral) was planned by ex-wife Miss Debbie and his children. I’m not sure if Shirley and Larry ever officially got divorced, but my Ex-mother-in-law Shirley was the last wife of record. Someone called Shirley to see if she wanted to come or contribute. She did neither.
Sitting there with Miss Debbie, who knows my husband (Shirley’s son) left me, and hearing the pain in her voice when she reflected on her husband’s affair, “. . . that was the most hurtful thing,” I felt for her. Just like labor pain for some, there is some pain that you can’t forget, even if it was long ago.
I offered just a little comment, saying,
“Well, I gotta tell you. I’ve never had any interest in somebody else’s husband.” This make her break out in a good loud chuckle.
“Me neither,” she said.
Just Me With . . . a coffee break.
P.S. If anyone knows of that blog post that inspired my coffee with Miss Debbie along with this post, please let me know. I want to give props.
I love Dunkin Donuts. I know it’s just a chain of low-end Doughnut shops, but I go to Dunkin Donuts every day. The baked goods and food are not so great, but I do enjoy the coffee. When I moved, downsized, left the marital home, whatever you want to call it — I began a relationship with Dunkin’ Donuts that was very personal.
When the old house sold, the new “old” house was still being remodeled. “Remodeling” makes it sound so pretty and exciting — so HGTV-like. It wasn’t. It was more a combination of Hoarders, Clean House, DIY’s Renovation Realities and Jerry Springer. Oh, it was an adventure, but it wasn’t pretty. Some of the details of the renovation will be in other posts, but for this you need to know that the kitchen had already been demolished to the studs, see Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell? and the home’s only bathroom was under construction to allow for an over the tub shower and for my boy to be able to stand in front of the toilet — like a man. The tub and sink had previously been removed, only the toilet remained, temporarily, which looked like this: Did you notice the duct tape on the toilet seat? Did ya? Can you imagine the germ fest going on there? Although at least one of the prior owners wasn’t even using the toilet regularly, see Piss Puke and Porn, . . . that toilet was more than nasty. It was a bio-hazard. This picture was taken almost a year before I moved in, when the prior owners were still living there. Yet when I moved in, the same duct tape was still on the toilet, now covered in plaster dust and construction dirt which had stuck to the urine stains on the commode like a weird kind of sand art. Ew!!
We moved into this mess – in Summer — and it was hot. Wait for it . . . we moved into a true
. . . wait for it. . . hot mess!
But at least we had a toilet to flush, assuming we could use it without touching it. I kept a bottle of hand sanitizer on a bucket in the “bathroom.” This held us over until we could use the hose — outside. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention that since the bathroom ceiling and roof were being raised, there was no overhead light. A desk lamp plugged into the one working outlet gave us some light — because you need to see in order to use a toilet without touching it. You need to see — but not too much, not too much, not in that house. We were seriously roughing it.
Two days after we moved in the disgusting toilet was removed. I was slightly relieved, not realizing that a simple plumbing fixture could actually scare me so much. But this left us with no indoor plumbing at all. Huh. But when the toilet was taken outside and I saw it in the light of day? Well, no indoor plumbing became suddenly acceptable, preferable, actually.
Still, I wasn’t alone. I do have five children. One kid was thankfully going on vacation with another family for a week. That left four. Four kids with nowhere to wash themselves, wash clothes or prepare food. And the four kids left were girls, so going behind a tree — not so easy.
I schlepped the girls to and from Grandma and Grandpa’s house, along with our laundry. But my elderly parents also have only one bathroom as well and were quite distraught over our living conditions. They were distraught? Imagine how I felt. I had to downplay the situation to keep my parents (who are Olympic level worriers) and my kids calm. I pretended this was not that big a deal. I deserve an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. I don’t want a SAG award, because I can’t get over the sound of that . . . but I digress.
Of course the bathroom construction was behind, though I was given reassurances to the contrary. And, let’s just say my funds were not liquid at the moment, which severely limited my options. (This may be subject of another post.)
While the kids were at the grandparents or other activities (which I kept them in, so as to maintain normalcy and give them a place to go — literally — ha!) I stayed and worked at the house. Professionals were doing the bathroom but I needed to be around to supervise, and continue my round the clock cleaning and painting, see That Hoarder’s Smell, and also try to organize our belongings —which were stored in stacks of boxes that could not yet be unpacked. Of course, there was no need to unpack the kitchen because, well, we didn’t have one. In addition, the house was not yet secure — broken locks and doors — someone needed to be around.
My morning routine was as follows:
I would get up, roll into my clothes or keep on whatever I’d slept in (because so very few of my clothes were accessible to me) and head to Dunkin Donuts.
Walking in quickly and giving the very hip “up” nod to the workers, who knew me as a regular, I would head directly to the bathroom where, in addition to the normal thing to do, I would wash my face, dry it with a paper towel, grab the toothbrush and paste stashed in my purse, and brush my teeth. When I emerged my coffee was ready for me. The largely Pakistani staff expected me, remembered my order, and never gave me a hard time about my frequent and prolonged bathroom visits — even when I had the kids with me and we did it as a group, waiting our turn, usually at night, which brings me to—
The night-time routine:
“Okay, kids we need to go and use the bathroom for the last time before bed. Get in the car.”
And we went to . . . Dunkin’ Donuts. The folks there would often give us free doughnuts, too! Plus I made friends with one worker even though there was a huge language barrier and I later helped her with a very personal issue — again something for another post.
I almost forgot that at one point there was a “Potty in the Basement” provided by the plumbers — really it was like an adult-sized training potty, except with chemicals. Yeah, that didn’t work too well either, partly because there was no light down there in the oil stained, crumbling stone basement, and partly because the contents of that potty needed to be dumped– not after every use because of the chemicals, but regularly. This meant carrying it up broken basement stairs, through the house and outside (walking a plank which extended from the back door four feet down to the ground, no deck or stairs yet) and then dumping it into the sewer line.
That potty overflowed once in the house. Ew. I just shuddered a little, thinking about it. Ew.
Damn, I’ve been through some shit, literally, shit . . . but I digress . . . and this post is getting long.
Realizing the bathroom remodel was going to take longer than expected, and when I finally had funds available (back child support was finally paid, on the very last day listed on the court order), I arranged for a port-a-potty to be installed in the back yard. After all, it was a construction site.
Oh the Port-A-Potty — it gave us another round of adventures . . . since it was Summer and my children were and are very afraid of bugs and the dark . . .
Anyway, this is how my love affair with Dunkin’ Donuts happened, it wasn’t just about the coffee.
Just Me With . . . a fully functional bathroom — now — though I still enjoy my morning coffee from my friends at Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Time to make the . . . Doughnuts?”
See, “She Asked For My Help” for the issue with my Pakistani friend.
Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
— The Twilight Zone, 1959, Season One
My narrator: Meet Roxanne, a divorced mother of five who sometimes forgets to eat, or chooses to save a simple breakfast bar for her children rather than “waste” it on herself. It’s an ordinary day for Roxanne, who had left home for her only true indulgence — getting her morning coffee. She didn’t know that when she returned into her neighborhood, she would cross into . . . The Twilight Zone.
Over the weekend we had some icy snow in my part of the world. I was out running errands (in other words: getting coffee). On the way home I was wondering whether I could get my children to shovel the sidewalks for me, doubted that they would before going to visit their father and worried about whether doing it myself would throw my back out again. My Aching Back A neighbor offered to pay my daughter to do hers. I wished that daughter or any of the children would do ours also, without back talk, threats or rewards — and before they had to go. It probably wouldn’t happen. I got my coffee, and while there I picked up my daughter’s favorite breakfast sandwich as a treat, plus I wanted her to get something warm in her belly before going out to shovel the neighbor’s walkway. As is often the case, I didn’t get a sandwich for myself, saving a couple of bucks, not wanting to spend the money on — me. As I turned into my neighborhood, I had my daily thoughts of “I really hate this neighborhood, I don’t like living here.” Followed by, “I wonder if I can figure out a way to move again but keep the kids in the same schools.” And rounding out the trilogy, “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no reason to move except that you don’t like it here and that’s just not a good enough reason.”
Given all these thoughts rushing through my head it was rather amazing that I happened to spot a woman on the side of the road. She had plastic grocery store bags spread in front of her in the snow, was shaking and clenching her hands and seemed to be trying to figure out a way to pick them up again. Clearly she was struggling to carry her groceries home in the snow.
I stopped, backed up, asked if she wanted a ride. She only gave pause for a moment and eyed me to make sure I didn’t look like a crazy. (Sometimes I can appear quite normal . . . but I digress). It was bitter cold outside. She accepted the ride, put her bags in the back seat and sat up front next to me, thanking me. She explained that she rushed out so quickly to get some things from the store that she had forgotten her gloves. It wasn’t that the bags were heavy, she said, it was that her hands were frozen and she couldn’t hold them anymore. “My hands hurt so bad,” she said.
It didn’t really matter to me why she was in her predicament, I just wanted to get her home. It was too damn cold and icy to walk, especially with groceries, no cart and no gloves. She went on to explain that her brother couldn’t shovel the car out because of his eye. His eye. Huh. I pondered this. Why would his eye keep him from shoveling . . . maybe he’d had surgery? I drifted off to my own little world, thoughts racing for first place in my head.
Then my passenger said, “I’m Roxanne.”
Skid marks on the brain. Thoughts stopped on a dime.
“Get OUT!!!” I responded, perhaps a little too energetically, reminiscent of Elaine from Seinfeld.
“What?” she responded, looking concerned. It was an unfortunate choice of words for my exclamation — I mean, saying “Get Out!” to a passenger in my car! Smooth, Roxanne.
“MY name is Roxanne,” I quickly explained.
“Yes. Really. Wow, that’s wild.” It’s a fairly uncommon name. It was surreal.
Roxanne said that I could drop her at a nearby intersection but I told her, no, I would take her all the way home. During the ride I discovered that we had gone to the same high school, and though I had assumed she was older than me, it turned out but she was too young for me even to have known her from school. She appeared worn beyond her years. I didn’t recall ever having seen her in the neighborhood or around town. It was odd.
So what of my surprise passenger, Roxanne? A woman who shared my name, who was walking alone in the snow-covered street, who failed to think of her own needs while rushing to meet the needs of others. The consequences of her neglect of self was finding herself standing in the snow with frozen fingers, groceries at her feet and blocks from home. For whatever reason– her family was not there to help her and she had to accept a ride from a stranger.
It gave me pause.
I’m that Roxanne, too, coming home with a sandwich for a child so that she could shovel another family’s walk but bringing no food for myself.
I almost said to the other Roxanne, “How could you leave home without gloves? You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’re no good to anybody if you get sick or frostbite.” But what stopped me, other than that being creepy coming from a stranger, is that other people have been saying that to me lately. My therapeutic goals are largely based upon meeting my basic self-care needs without guilt.
“Roxanne, have you been eating and sleeping? You can’t take care of your family if you don’t take care yourself.” I’ve heard often. Too often.
Did the universe send me that other Roxanne to remind me that I need to help myself? I mean, I know that when I get sick, the whole system fails. I know this, yet I still need reminders that protecting myself from the elements, eating, sleeping and yes even doing something just for my sheer enjoyment of it is as important as, well — anything. Somehow, that reminder got in my car that day, and her name was Roxanne.
I dropped Roxanne off feeling good about having helped her, since it was so very cold outside, but I knew that both of us need to take care of ourselves. I need to take care of me.
Maybe picking up a reflection of myself — what I could become, what I have been . . . was meant to be that day.
My Narrator: Roxanne, a functioning, yet melancholy divorced mother who often puts her basic needs well behind those in her care, stops in the snow to assist an eerily familiar woman in distress, a woman who perhaps shares more than just her name in . . . The Twilight Zone.
Just Me With . . . an over-active imagination?
P.S. I told my therapist about it. She queried whether the woman was real.
I’m not even going there.
See the Sequel: The Twilight Zone — Again? Seriously?