You don’t know. You think that because I wear ill-fitting clothes and shoes that have seen better days, I a m not much–much of anything. You think that my life was always ragged and topsy turvy. No. You don’t know. You don’t know me and it’s no use my telling you that I was like you, or almost like you, once. I could do anything. I had resources. I could go anywhere and not have to ask strangers for help. I didn’t have to feel like Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.
I am beyond myself; I am more than beyond myself. The fat man with the pony tail saw me go out the door and when I tried to get back in, the door was locked. The fat man had been drinking. His excuse the time was Christmas Eve. When I confronted him and said that it had been wrong of him to do what he did, he just looked at me with his beady eyes. He pretended to be innocent and mentioned something about my having respect for his home. I stared at him. His home? It isn’t his home anymore than it is mine. He’s just lucky to sleep with the landlady. At one point he snapped his fingers at me and in his broken English, told me to go. Fucking Bitch was what I heard when I closed the door of my room. The fat girlfriend, the one with the dyed red hair sat in her chair watching all this saying nothing. I had to tell her to please shut him up.
Hit the ground. Yes, just do it. Just hit the ground. Do it now. Have part of your face, the cheek area, touch the pavement. Fall asleep. Fall asleep while you are seated on the milk crate. Before you know it, you’ll be down. You’ll feel blood in your face. No one will be there to pick you up and send you somewhere warm.
My precious one: no shrine can do you justice. Nothing I can feel, no matter how deep, can describe all that you meant and mean to me. Those other ones, the ones I often see on the street, are like you, but they are not you. Your essence, your soul—both belong to you and you only. Seeing the others makes me feel less lonely for you. I will miss you always; petting them will not bring you back, but my heart is less sad when I do so.
Stop that Guy!
It is about 7 in the evening. A homeless man and his companion are out on the sidewalk. The man is on the makeshift bed with his head on a pillow. The woman is near him, glancing at him from time to time. There is a large coffee cup by the woman’s left leg. Some coins and about $35 dollars are in the cup. A young guy comes over to where the man and woman are. In his hand there are several coins. He pretends to put the coins in the cup. Quickly he grabs the cup and runs away. The woman gets up from her milk crate seat. No! No! she shouts as the young thief rushes down the subway stairs. He stole her money, somebody says, rushing after him. The woman stands by the subway stairs. Her leg is in pain. I can’t go after the thief too. I might fall down because of the stress. She goes back to her milk crate and dials the operator. Call the police, the operator tells her. The woman knows where the nearest police station is. Only 3 blocks, corner of Lexington. The young officer behind the information desk has a plate of food before him. Yes, can I help you? The woman tells her story as the officer gives her an up and down look. Where do you live? He asks her. She answers nothing. What does this have to do with being robbed she asks herself. The officer repeats the question. The Bronx, she says. I live in the Bronx. And you were asking people for money. She smiles faintly. The Bronx is not exactly Palm Springs, CA, she wants to say but doesn’t quite dare. I am about to be homeless and I was with my friend. Is it your money, the near $40 or his? It’s his money, she says. Then tell your friend to come here tomorrow morning to file a police report. Tomorrow morning? He was robbed tonight. Yes, tomorrow morning. The woman sighs. I must have disturbed his dinnertime, she thinks. Thank you, she says and walks away. What happened tonight with the guy stealing the money was the lowest of the low. I didn’t even get help from the police.
Feisty—that was it, exactly. A word to describe her was feisty. She appeared fragile, with her puckered up face, the deep wrinkles around the small brown eyes and the thin lips. Her body was thin. She could not have been taller than 5 feet. Her suede moccasins were dark brown; her stockings were thick and beige-colored. She looked at you with compassion and understanding, as if she didn’t have any trouble putting herself in your shoes. Her small hands showed deep blue/purple veins. Her arms were wrinkled. She remembered faces and names. She gave lollipops to the neighborhood kids. When you were sick, she felt your illness as her own. You were hers ; that was all you needed to know.
It is one. It is a nightmare, a real nightmare. I don’t like it. I never imagined it could happen. It has and I can’t get out of it. It is bad; it is surreal, something out of a bad dream or a joke gone wrong. It’s the face. The face I once had is not this one. My old face was lovely; I didn’t have to apologize to myself for having it. I was proud of how I looked, how I walked down the street. Now, today, the eyes have circles under them. My hair is straight and clean; sometimes I can’t comb it. My skin is not the skin I want. It has wrinkles. It doesn’t have animation. It’s just there—like me. I am just there.
The face leans against the glass window of a closed store. It is dark. Tears try their best to come out. The mouth opens in an attempt at a scream. No! Don’t look! I don’t want you to look. What have I become? I am a thing, less than a thing. I have just sat for hours on the sidewalk. People walked by. Almost none saw me. The air was like ice. The cheeks hurt. The legs were rigid. The legs were the legs of a robot.
The body was like a shut door. The body was starting to feel but it didn’t want to. It resisted life, it resisted passion. The body resisted you. The voice coming out of the mouth was small. The voice didn’t want to say it—not out loud, not for everyone to hear. Acknowledging you meant acknowledging love. That was forbidden; it just wasn’t done in our world. Hiding was allowed. Having a secret that no one must know about was allowed as well. The secret was not well-kept. The eyes could not hide what the soul felt.
Life without Dinner
Not today—definitely not today. Not last week, either. Not even a month ago. How many days, how many nights, without it? It once was called a square meal. A square meal seems like a dream, like it happened so long ago that it never happened at all. It’s bread and cheese. Bread and cheese with maybe a small yogurt. That is what passes for dinner these days.