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October 30, 2014
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The Bamboo in the Garden

Chip Forelli

By ELIZABETH J. COLEMAN

One evening during my mother’s last stay at the hospital, after we told her good night, my aunt and I walked uptown. On our way, we encountered a man standing outside an ethnic deli. He held out a smudged Styrofoam coffee cup. And I reached in my purse for money. Don’t do that, my aunt whispered.

One evening during our mother’s last stay at the hospital, after we told her good night, my aunt and I walked uptown. On our way, we encountered a man standing at an ethnic deli holding an old Styrofoam coffee cup. And I opened my purse, for some money. Don’t do that, my aunt whispered. But I had just read an article in The New Yorker saying that if someone asks you for money, they need it more than you. This is important to me, I said. It’s one thing if you have the money, but don’t go fishing around in your purse on the street, my aunt said. I insisted. Never mind, the man said, laughing sadly.

One evening during my mother’s last stay at the hospital, after I told her good night, my aunt and I walked uptown to find a bit of peace. On our way, we encountered a man standing at one of the ethnic delis that bloom on the streets of New York. He held out an old Styrofoam coffee cup in his right hand, as a Buddhist monk in Tibet might hold a begging bowl. And my purse opened, the way a flower might unfold at first light. For I had seen how the world will end, with the fury of water, with daisies and forget-me-nots and even hillsides swept away, and homes tossed into the middle of the road.