Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sad, Brown Eyes

I encounter many homeless in my day to day life. I don't work with the homeless, I just happen to work in a part of town that is heavily infested with them and even as I type the word infested I'm sickend by myself.

I get entirely annoyed and disgusted when they bother me and the reason why is because it affects me. It cuts right through to the heart of me to see these people, in a place in their life where they are even beyond helping themselves.

I don't really care how they got there or why they are there. It's not my business and I know a good majority of the time it's their own fault. But what does that matter to me? It's not my place to judge and if I'm going to be entirely honest, I've been perched upon the lip of a bottle many a time ready to fall in and let my whole life follow me to the bottom of it. So many times the numbness provided there has seemed like sweet solace from the course of my life that has offered up the suggestion of jumping off the top of the highest building that I can climb onto.

It's not me though. I have too much pride and self-preservation instinct to ever fall into that abyss. My husband and I have a relative that is now homeless. He sleeps in homeless camps, he begs for change and he will do odd jobs for places that will let him sleep on the couch behind their place of business. Knowing someone who has actually made this choice is gut-wrenching and eye-opening. And he did, make that choice. It was a choice and one I don't understand from him.

This morning as I was walking into the post office, that wasn't even open yet, I was approached by yet another homeless. This was the same post office where the guy ran to open the door for me only to ask for a dollar on my way out. I was ready for it. I was prepared with my stock reply of "I don't carry cash."

Today though, today was different. My heart is still lurching from this encounter.

I've seen this person before. I'm sure that she prefers to be called she, so I will do just that. She can be seen walking down the streets, flamboyantly most days. My daughter once saw her and looked at me astonished and said "Mom, I think that was a man." I smiled a little and said "Yes, but she prefers not to be."

As I walked up to the doors I saw her come stumbling out. Doing the "one foot swings wide in front of the other" drunken walk. She eyed me up and down and said "My, you look so pretty." I politely said thank you and hesitated to walk away just yet. I knew what was coming. She looked at me again and said "When you're done doing your business inside do you think that you could spare a bit to help me get a small burger or sandwich in my tummy". With that she jingled the change in her hand and rubbed her belly like a hungry little girl.

I looked into her sad, blurry eyes that sat under perfectly drawn eyebrows. Her face was carefully attended to. As I scanned down, her coat was dirty and her shoes were shabby and those of a man. She would have wanted to be dressed so much differently. She sensed my hesitation but misunderstood and said "I'm sorry but because of my gender issues I prefer to approach women."

Looking into her eyes again, I knew this was her line that she used countless times in a day but the sadness I saw there was like a punch to my carefully dressed gut. All this person wanted in life was to be me. Even on the days where I don't want to be me, she would give anything to be me and she had been abused most of her life trying to be just that.

I had no cash. I never do, but I pulled out my wallet and dug out whatever silver coins I could find. I offered them up with a quick apology.

I shouldn't apologize for giving her all I had to spare and I know in my heart I wasn't. I was apologizing for the hand that life had dealt her. Regardless of whatever choices this person had made in life, many of them were made for her by the unacceptance of others.


Doc said...

Seeing the homeless really effects me too for some reason... I guess I wonder if things had been different if I could have ended up that way.

love bites said...

Can I just mention that your posts have been kicking my fucking ASS lately? You rock.