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Monday, March 31, 2014

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

I spent last night consoling the cat, who, once again, bet more than she could afford to lose on the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Her team, the Michigan Wolverines, is out of the running at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats.

You can imagine her disappointment -- well, until tomorrow, when you can read about it.

Until then, something from May of 2012.


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.

19 comments:

Geo. said...

A poignant tableau of forces at work among people, strangers. My compliments!

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

So powerful, Pearlie.

Indigo Roth said...

Nice work Peg x

Delores said...

I remember this. Such pride.

Eva Gallant said...

Stubborn pride....slightly sad but admirable.

jenny_o said...

Pride? Or something else? Mental illness compounded by bad luck compounded by ...?

And where does she get the money to chain-smoke?

No matter what the answers are, this is good writing and good reading.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
A throat-grabbing vignette Pearl. Like Jenny-O I had thoughts for the smoker and some concern for the 'giver'. It is never so cut and dried...

YAM xx

bill lisleman said...

a puzzle that you presented very well.

Pearl said...

She even made it through this last winter, when we were regularly well below zero.

I do think she is mentally ill, and I can only assume that she gets a little something via Social Security. However she gets by, she breaks my heart.

Silliyak said...

Proof that you can plant earworms through text... So for your fix try this
http://youtu.be/cQywZYoGB1g

sage said...

Well, Michigan is a sad place today, which is great because they didn't have any pity on me when Carolina lost...

I liked your story and found myself aching for both women.

Gigi said...

The story behind this story is one we will never know.

Jen said...

Ah, yes. I have had this experience. Bought some roast chicken from the Kroger's deli for a beggar, with sign, camped outside same. He told me he already had his lunch with him ... yoghurt. It was awkward I can tell you.

Pearl, I love how you notice people who, to many, would be invisible and not subject matter for writing. Yet they seem to have your heart.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

What's her deal, chain-smoker lady? I feel sorry for both of them.

Daisy said...

Lots to think about Pearlie.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

Even old homeless people have pride

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

It's obvious the old bat is a lookout for the local gang of drug vendors.

Have you told the police yet?

Linda O'Connell said...

That also happened to me. I was at a fast food restaurant and took a meal to a homeless young man, obviously mentally ill. He refused, so I sat beside him and made up a story about having been homeless too and being ashamed. He listened, then ate. Connecting sometime sis hard to do. It's easier to look away for some.

Daisy said...

Such a sad portrait you paint with your words, Pearl. Well-written piece.