What was she doing here in this hot weather? The day was hot and humid, yet going in and out of the subway would have been too expensive. Her chin hit the sidewalk. It happened almost without her realizing it. One minute she was up and the next down. Her whole body hurt but the chin got the worst of it. he hoped someone in the street full of people would offer to help her up. No one did. he struggled up again as best she could, picking up her purse. She shook her head and on she went. The day was too bright to think about heartlessness.
I don’t like the guy. He is mean. I was asking about her in a nice way. I wasn’t bothering anybody. The fat guy opened the door. He looked down at me with those beady eyes. The fat hands made a noise. I didn’t like the noise. Just one word: Go! I was so scared I ran all the way down. Now I am on the street again. I am on the run.
I huddled close to the person in the blue gown. She’s offering me food. I need to get close to her again. I eat quickly right after I look at her. I don’t want her to run away, to disappear and leave. I was a tiny little one when I started living on the street. I have jumped from house to house and gate to gate. It’s been almost 6 years. My friends and I play and run around but street life is a pain. Nobody has wanted me before now. I would like a home so I can be somebody’s lap cat–just the person and me.
It was a good question. What is a home? She thought about it, about the dear 4 letter word that made her feel warm and pleasant inside. She didn’t know anymore. At one point it would have been a place to be protected from the world, the daily routine, the routine that went nowhere no matter how hard she tried. Home could be the place to take a shower anytime she wanted, to make herself tea and something good to eat. A home where she could keep a cat, a dog, pets to love and who would love her. But so many unpleasant things had happened. No, she didn’t want to be or sound like a victim. The bottom line is that she was tired. She still wanted a home. The options were slim at best, nil at worst. She finally got it! A home was a place she wouldn’t have to leave ever.
The man, middle-aged and fat, looked at her. “You’re old. You’re ancient, lady.” The woman stared at him. You call me old? I will not allow you to call me old.” She could have added: How dare you call me old? You are an undocumented immigrant who guzzles beer. You are over 40 and you have a paunch.” She could also have mentioned the domestic violence scenes she had overheard from her bedroom. He shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever. You just get that cat out of here. This is my home. It is not your home. You rent a room here and that’s it.” The woman couldn’t believe it. “How can this be your home? You don’t even pay rent as the woman’s boyfriend. You don’t pay, period. You live here for free.” She wished she could have said this, but the man was a lot stronger than she was. “Remember, this is not a hospice or a shelter.” “She was tired; she wanted to go to sleep and forget the scene had ever happened. “ The cat will be out by tomorrow.” In the morning, when she went to look for the cat, she was gone.
Doors opened; doors closed. People came out; people went inside. Some shoved hard, others said excuse me. No one offered a seat to anyone. Arms hang from straphangers; hands held tight to poles. The heat was of no help. “Sardines, that’s what we are. We are all sardines,” someone said. The subway stopped. Someone with a suitcase had a hard time making her way out. “If you touch my child, I’ll touch you,” a mother told the suitcase carrier. The child was in a stroller. “And if you do touch me, the police will touch you.” The suitcase carrier said something about having to put up with certain people. The subway doors closed behind her.
It kept coming down. The tourist tried to protect it, but the water wouldn’t stop. The top of the suitcase, where the zipper was, was wet. She took out a piece of paper towel from her pocket to get rid of some of the wetness. A woman walking by stopped and stared. I had a suitcase like that once, she told the tourist. During rainy nights, it and I had a hard time keeping myself and the suitcase dry.
The animal is in its cage. The bars are light grey. They are made of some hard metal. There is no chewing them off, doing away with them. Nevertheless, the animal strikes his head and his arms against the bars. “I don’t want to be here. This is too confining for me. I can’t move. I feel trapped. Free—I want to be free. Once I am free, I will become myself.
Bright colors in a dress—green, blue, light green. They are done in a 60s kind of way. The dress is sleeveless. The woman’s arms are not thin, not fat. Her head is medium sized and her thin dark brown hair is cut short. I knew someone once who looked like this stranger. It was someone I loved and lost. Her face was bright; her cheeks used to get pink in the summer time.
The woman went up to the counter. She dropped the bag full of coins. There weren’t very many. She had counted $8.01. It was mostly quarters, with some dimes, nickels and pennies. What’s this? The teller asked. “It’s a deposit. I want to put this in my account.” “You can’t do that.” “You didn’t write a deposit slip either, “he said. “Yes, I did. It’s this one here.” She pointed to the one she had put in the deposit slot. “I can’t read this.” She sighed and wrote another slip. “He picked it up and frowned. “I can’t read this.” “It’s how I write. Be nice. With my deposit, I’m helping pay for your salary.” The man took a white plastic bag from a drawer near him. He wrote down some information and put the coins in the first bag inside the other one. After he gave the customer a receipt, he told her that they were done. ”Thanks”, she said. “You’re welcome.” “I shouldn’t have said that,” she muttered. “That’s no way to treat a customer. You’re paid to count money.”
It was there—all three rolls were there. Someone had left them. They were wrapped in cellophane. “To take them or not take them?” the person asked herself. Her eyes didn’t see anybody looking her way on the busy street. “I am hungry.” She touched the rolls one by one. They were soft and fresh. Opening the pocket of her long black winter coat, she put them inside. “Thank God, they fit. These are for when I am in a safe place and can actually eat them,” she said shrugging her shoulders. She walked away from the subway station.