There’s a woman downtown, a fixture, you might say. At hand in the bone-cracking cold of the winter, present for the oppressively heavy heat of summer, she sits. Her thin body wrapped in layers of faded men’s clothing in all weather, she is an unmoving island in a sea of human turbulence.
Surrounded by plastic garbage bags packed to a stretching, near bursting level, she has built a wall of them.
There she is now, chain-smoking. She chews on her lips, talks to herself, lights the new one with the dying cherry of the old, to be sucked into her lungs and exhaled, seemingly through her weathered, lined face. Her eyes a faint, watery blue, she looks at nothing, looks at no one.
She does not make eye contact. She does not hold a sign.
I watch from the bus stop as a young woman in a pretty summer dress buys a hot dog (All Beef Vienna Sausages!) from a street vendor, approaches the older woman with it. She holds it out, says something I can’t hear. Take it, I imagine her saying, I bought this for you. The woman shakes her head no. She doesn’t want it. The young woman, money from the hot dog purchase still in her hand, offers her the change instead. Please. Take it.
The older woman turns away, shakes her head vigorously. No. She doesn’t take anything from anyone.
Doesn’t need to.
The young woman walks away, slowly, the hot dog and the change still in her hands.
She had wanted to help.
And the old woman with the garbage bags full of her belongings lights another cigarette.