During the spring, when I sat on left (east) side of the 4F bus in the morning as it traveled into downtown, I frequently saw Sally on her bicycle at the corner of 42 st. and Bryant Avenue, Sally looked to be about 12 or 14 years old, and when I saw her she was usually paused at the curb straddling her bike, waiting for traffic to clear so she could cross. Presumably she was heading to school.
Sally rides one of the old-fashioned bikes for girls, with the dropped front cross bar designed for easy use by girls. These bikes are somewhat rare these days, as most bicycling girls ride standard 10-speed or 15-speed bikes with the straight crossbar. But this type of traditional girl's bike is very helpful for Sally, because she is particularly tiny of stature.
Sally is very short for her age, although her facial features and arms and legs are fairly average in shape, Sally's genetic condition makes her what political correctness now calls a "little person." Some years ago we would have called this condition dwarfism. So the this bike is particularly useful for Sally, since a traditional bicycle would be difficult indeed for her to ride comfortably.
Sally's facial expression most mornings is one of melancholia, so often that on the rare occasion when some private thought makes her look happy, it stands out as the exception to the rule. It makes me wonder at the reasons for the sad expression she wears nine days out of ten.
Is Sally simply one of those people who takes a while to wake up in the morning? Will she grow steadily cheerier as the day goes on, as is the case with some people? Is she simply glum about going to school on nice spring days? That's not usually in healthy young adolescents. Do I pay more attention to her because of her physical unusualness? Is she really just like everybody else? After all, when people don't know you're looking at them, the expression you see is usually one of worried consternation, if not outright unhappiness. Members of the human species rarely look happy when viewed in social isolation.
What I imagine, though, is that her unusual condition creates a special isolation for Sally. Dwarfism, I've read, is a steadily decreasing phenomenon, which means those living with it have steadily fewer genuine peers. Sally is much more unusual now than she would have been 20 years ago, and perhaps it's the fact that she alway draws second looks that creates her melancholia. What teenager, except for cheerleaders and performance athlete, likes to be stared at? In the dozens of days I've seen Sally on the street, she has never looked up at the bus as it passes; she doesn't need to, because she knows full well that people above notice her and swivel their necks to keep looking as the bus passes.
I wonder if Sally, as she enters her teen years, will have a particularly difficult time developing relationships. Is this part of what's on her mind in the mornings? It would take a particularly mature and sensitive male teenager to look past Sally's physical condition to the possibilities of romance. Mature and sensitive teenage boys aren't exactly common. Sally almost certainly will feel more isolation than most teenagers in this regard.
Suddenly one day Sally stopped appearing at the corner in the morning, and for a brief time I was worried about her—until I realized that the school year had ended and she no longer had the need to venture out early each morning. When school starts in the fall, Sally may well have now moved on to high school that requires a different bike route, so it's entirely possible I won't ever see her again.
But I'll continue to wonder how she's doing.