The invisible searing pain shot through her mid-step as she went down the stairs, causing her to grab the railing harder and stop. She did not moan out loud, but the air seemed to whoosh out of her lungs in one quick moment. She doubled over and waited, trying to breath even when it was excruciating.
Joe rubbed her back as they waited for the contraction to subside. He felt helpless watching her struggle in pain and not knowing how to help.
The traffic in the subway was brisk and people pushed past them on the stairs without giving them any space jostling them in their quest to get to their destination. Mary and
Joe were just 2 inconveniences in the way.
Finally, the pain subsided, and Mary straightened resuming the trek down the stairs to the subway landing. Joe put tokens in the machine, and they pushed through the metal gate and onto the platform waiting for the next train.
A small moan came out of Mary as she looked wildly around for something to hang onto as the next contraction overtook her in her season of labour. Joe grabbed her hand and lead her to the nearest wall. A few people eyed them with suspicion as it was obvious that something was wrong and they did not wish to catch it, or to be a part of whatever drugs she might be on, people moved further away, repelled.
Ripped jeans, tie dyed t-shirt, blue hair, nose ring and a big belly was all people could see when they looked at Mary, another knocked up young teenager. People eyed Joe suspiciously assuming he was the culprit, he was not looking much better with his oversized black hoodie with the hood pulled up as if he was hiding, his jeans sliding down his legs and would have if not for the belt. Just a couple kids in the crowd of hundreds, he held onto Mary as she waited for the contraction to finish. No one took the time to notice his care and concern for Mary.
The train had pulled up and he eyed it and Mary at the same time, could she make it or should they wait for the next one? The contractions were getting more frequent and he was worried about getting to the hospital on time. He raised his eyebrow at her in a question? Should we go or wait?
She nodded and pushed off from the wall with force to get momentum to walk towards the train. Joe held her arm tightly so they would not get separated in the sea of people. Mary could not walk fast so she shuffled her feet quickly as she could towards the train. The warning beeps that the door would be closing sounded and both of them panic-walked the rest of the way squeezing inside the already full car.
Joe looked around while Mary held onto the pole she managed to squeeze into and grab in the middle of the car, trying to breath and relax after the last contraction. No seats. He stood protectively around Mary as he tried to make eye contact with people to see if anyone was noticing that Mary needed to sit.
Funny how people are, no one would make eye contact. In a sea of faces most were looking down at their phones, few if any were looking their way. A couple of them looked out the window, bored with this everyday commute.
There were a couple of gang bangers, big chains around their necks, tattoos spread all over their arms and necks, knuckle rings adorned their hands, joking and laughing loudly with each other, ignoring all others on the train.
A tired looking young mom with a baby snuggly tied to her stomach, holding onto an empty stroller was talking to a little girl about the age of 2 who seemed to have a lot of questions.
There was a sea of colored faces, all races and all cultures, the subway was a mosaic of randomly put together people, and all those people refused to look over at Mary and Joe because seriously, they were not giving up their seat. Joe bristled when no one seemed to pick up his vibe that Mary needed a seat.
An older lady with white hair and a grey wool coat was fussing with her bag, trying to pull out her knitting for the ride, but it seemed the wool was fighting back. She was frustrated and it was showing as she was tugging on the yarn.
A man with a lunch pail sat staring at his phone while swigging on his metal cup of coffee. He was in another world while playing a game on his phone, along with a dozen or so others. Lost in the world of technology.
A 20 something year old guy or was it a girl with both mustache and full beard had brightly painted long nails and bright green eye makeup was sitting filing their nails as Joe studied to see if the eyes would connect. Surely that guy did not really need a seat.
Joe kept looking over at people trying by telepathy to let people know they needed 1 seat. Joe would not sit down but he needed Mary too.
The people on the train if they dared to look over at the couple saw a young, very young and very pregnant teen with a guy. Seriously how old could she be? 18 maybe, look at her, way to young to be pregnant.
Many of the people had an air of contempt as if being pregnant was a disease, didn’t this couple know about abortion – fix the problem before we got to this stage! She was much too young to be raising a kid anyways. Posters on the top of the subway car had ads for free clinics you could go to to take care of these kinds of problems.
Mary and Joe were oblivious to the posters. Mary again doubled over, no noise escaped but her whole body tensed as the next contraction steeped through her. Joe put his hand on her back while steading her with his other arm, he seemed to be massaging her. His head came up furiously as he looked around again to see if any seat was possible for Mary to sit on, other heads bobbed down quickly when his head came up.
A few people did look up when the couple was not looking at them, they focused on Mary and whatever was happening. A couple of all to familiar blue face masks pulled up tighter and more securely over faces as if maybe breathing in might catch that pregnancy disease or whatever that girl had.
Mary was doubled over for 3 or 4 minutes, only intent on working through the pain. She was now worried about making the hospital before baby came as well. The thought of having a baby on the disgusting dirty subway was too sketchy to think about right now and she willed herself to breath through the contraction.
The old lady with the knitting was still staring over at them. She had stopped struggling in her bags of wool and looked intently at the couple as if trying to decide what was happening.
Finally, she called out in a loud and shrill voice, “are you having a baby?” All heads in the car now came up to look over at them, but none would make direct eye contact, they simply wanted to know the answer.
Joe nodded his head up and down, looking over at the lady.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed as she started juggling her bags and pushing things back into bags and trying to sort her stuff.
“Well come here and sit down then my dear!” the old lady called out. “Can’t have you standing there like that.”
Others on the train swung their heads over to now study the old lady. Seriously, what was her deal? Couldn’t she see that this couple had gotten themselves into this mess, they could darn well deal with it. It was not their problem, who was she to make a big deal over it. Now some of them squirmed thinking about the fact that she was up-staging them by giving up her seat and they did not want to. For most it was momentary guilt and they got over it quickly.
Some never moved or flinched, this was not their problem and they were more than amused to have someone else’s problems to study for a while so they did not have to think about their own.
Mary waited for the last contraction to pass before she stood back up and started to move over towards the older lady. She had a grateful smile on her face as she approached her. The older lady was up now and holding onto the pole in the middle, she was able to squeeze into an already crowded pole. A couple of people had moved around a bit to make room.
“Thank you,” Mary smiled weakly and sat down awkwardly as her protruding belly did not bend well.
People around her moved against the wall as if Mary was clearly bringing some catchy disease their way. Not one else reached out a hand or offered to help. Joe stayed at the pole he was at because there was no room for him beside Mary. Not one other person seemed to notice him, all eyes were now fixed on Mary.
Just then she gasped and doubled over again, in her head hoping she was not going to throw up. The older lady watched and exclaimed, “Oh my you are only a couple minutes apart, aren’t you dear?”
All heads swung back to Mary as she nodded her head.
“How many stops is the hospital?” the lady asked.
Mary held up 1 finger from her hunched over trying to breathe form, the older lady nodded her head in acknowledgement.
The older lady seemed to consider this, the whole time watching Mary carefully and then looked up at the transit map on the wall to see which stop was next. University hospital, good. “She might make it,” she thought.
Mary sat up straighter and tried to make eye contact with Joe. His focus was directly on her as though willing her to hang in there, hold on. Inside he was yelling at God, but no one would have ever known that.
“Hey!” his thoughts went, “You are the One who started this thing. You told Mary she was going to have a baby and now, now, you leave us, stranded on the subway? What’s up with that?” his thoughts pounded around in his head.
Mary on her end was also talking to God when she could breathe. “God, you said this was your baby, a special baby and you want me to have it here on this disgusting dirty train? God let me hold on to get to the hospital please. Help me not throw up! Do Not Leave Me Now!” Her brain raced back to remember what the angel had said who had come to visit her. Something like the baby would be great, Son of the Most High, but right now it felt nothing like a blessing.
If only the people around them knew, maybe they would have taken better care of them, but in reality, no matter what people know, usually their focus is really on taking care of themselves and their business. It would not have made any difference. Telling anyone such a wild story about a visiting God and angels, well no one would believe it anyways. Besides, not a lot of people had any room or interest in their lives for God anymore.
The train was slowing now, approaching the next stop, their stop. Joe wondered if Mary would be able to walk back up the stairs and all the way into the hospital.
Mary looked at Joe as if she could read his mind and gave him a nod.
She attempted to shift her position so it would be easier to stand when she needed to.
The platform of the station was coming into view and the people for this stop all started to rustle and move about.
Joe started towards Mary so he could help her up, noticing that a couple of people moved over so he could get through.
The train was almost stopped and he bent down to help Mary up, oblivious to the crowd. As she stood up and they turned towards the door, the people had made a path, allowing the young couple to easily get out. Joe was dumbfounded and Mary was thrilled. They walked with a determination, slowly but intently focused on the door and walked out onto the platform.
Once on the platform the mayhem appeared again as the 2 tides collided. Those getting on the train and those getting off. Joe held Mary’s arm even tighter as they headed towards the stairs and right there before them was an escalator - God had provided moving stairs for Mary. They both sighed.
At the top of the escalator to the right were a couple of golf carts with drivers in fluorescent orange vests sitting in them as if waiting. Joe led Mary off the escalator and placed her carefully beside a waste can to hold on to. He quickly moved towards the golf carts and asked the first driver, a middle eastern looking fellow that Joe hoped spoke English, if they could possibly give Mary a ride to the hospital.
Mary watched as the driver nodded his head rapidly up and down, she started towards the cart when a huge contraction stopped her. She groaned and doubled over almost falling to her knees. Joe ran over to her to ensure she did not collapse onto the floor. The sound of a beeper became louder as Joe looked up from Mary, the golf cart was inching its way over to the young couple.
When the driver pulled up beside Mary, he sat quietly, watching the couple in silence. As Mary straightened up, he peacefully said in a thick accent, “Hop in and I will get you where you need to go.” Mary nodded.
With barely both legs in the cart, the driver took off at a rapid rate, unbecoming for a golf cart. Joe wild eyed looked over at Mary, she grinned.
Joe looked back at the other golf cart, he had never seen these kind of vehicles in the subway, there was no other vehicle. It was gone. Joe swiveled in his seat, eyes searching everywhere for the other cart. He made eye contact with his own driver and the driver looked directly at Joe, “Don’t look back,” was all the driver said.
Joe tried to understand what this all meant and studied the driver with more scrutiny to see if he was an angel or a human. He could not tell. The driver had a slight grin, almost Mona Lisa type etched on his face.
Joe turned his gaze back to Mary to see if she had noticed anything out of place, she was only intent on her contractions and breathing.
The hospital was approaching rapidly and Joe tried to tell the driver which entrance they should go to, the driver only nodded and kept driving. As they approached the hospital the double doors swung open and Joe wondered if the driver had a button. He could not see one.
The driver drove right inside the hospital, through the first crowded gathering area and right up to a set of elevators. He stopped and waited for the elevator to open, the doors opened almost immediately and he drove in.
Stunned Joe and Mary simply sat. The driver did not actually touch a button on the elevator but no one else got on the elevator as the door closed and the elevator ascended up to the 5th floor. Maternity.
The doors opened and the driver drove forward to the nurses desk and waited until Mary and Joe climbed out. The nurses did not appear to even see them as yet, how could they miss the golf cart? As Joe approached the desk, the nurse looked up, “CanI help you?”
Joe nodded and turned towards Mary and as he did, he noticed the golf cart was no where to be seen. He did a complete 360 and stood there mouth open, in a not too appealing look. The nurse again asked, “Can I help you?”
Joe simply pointed to Mary who at that moment groaned a long loud noise that caused the nurse to jump out of her seat and rush towards her.
Joe could only stand there and watch them wheel Mary down the hall in a wheelchair as he seemed stuck in one spot. Finally another nurse appeared from the back and he asked her, "Where do the golf carts go after they drop people off?”
The nurse looked strangely at Joe, “Golf cart? I have no idea what you are talking about. This is a hospital not a country club young man. Are you the father?” Joe shook his head “no” because he wasn’t. “You can wait over there while we check out your friend, we will call you when you can go see her.”
Joe walked into the waiting area and slumped into the first chair, totally baffled by what had just happened.
He finally looked around the little space, only 2 other men were there, one engrossed in a magazine, one on his phone. As Joe looked at the magazine, it slid down slowly, revealing the man’s face, Joe started, it was the cart driver! He gave Joe a wink.
Joe stood up and started to walk over, when all of the sudden the man, simply disappeared.
It was at that moment Joe heard a choir begin to sing.
Authors Note: I hope you liked this short story of a modern-day Mary and Jo. As you ponder it, ask yourself if you have made time for Jesus to enter your life. Are you so busy with "life" that you would miss His coming? Does this story seem perhaps a bit far fetched at the end with the miracle of the golf carts, the disappearing men/angels? I had wondered a bit about that too, until I realized that the real Christmas story, you know the original Mary and Joseph had their fair share of “miracles” and “farfetched things”. A virgin born baby… really?
In the original story we have the fact that hundreds of years prior, people who had no idea who Mary and Jo were, were predicting their future.
There was a miraculous star that attracted wise men, very knowledgeable fellows, from hundreds of miles away to set out on a journey to find this child.
We had smelly, dirty shepherds come to find them in a stable when Jesus was born, they had all these weird stories about huge groups of angels coming to sing and telling them of a special baby born. Weirder yet, this baby in an animal stall was a King, a very special person, but why or how does a King get born in a barn?
We had the ruler of the area make a declaration to kill all the boys under the age of 2 all because of this baby. Who was this baby to cause all this stir?
Then the hardest to grasp is that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Who loves like that, to give up your child to go save a bunch of people who do not really care of His existence? God does. He really does. This is the true meaning of Christmas.
Merry Christmas my friends from our home to yours – may the blessings of the season pour over you and your family as we enter in to this season with wide eyed wonder and miracle filled expectations.