I sat firm in my seat, wondering if I missed my part in the cosmic drama. I mean, I wonder if I could only have known her name. Her face was purple and pimply. Her hair was black, matted down with flakes and grease. The window in front of me shone smoke billowing out of big buildings and snow falling over Loring.
The barista approached with regret like he’d done it before. With her eyes barely open, she muttered something about not having a weapon. I couldn’t see it for her eyes, but her voice sounded like tired tears. He asked if she had a place to stay. She didn’t’. His eyes jutted around for a moment, his feet shuffling with them. With all the uncertainty a command could hold, he told her she’d have to leave.
Ninety seconds earlier, I steered away from her. She was with a man, and they looked loud and needy. As I fumbled with my headphones trying to look busy, I heard the woman mumble about how maybe something something, and the man replied “well, he sure don’t know you.” If I don’t block out the memory, I feel the frosty ache in her eyes as we shared a split-second glance. I wonder if she meant me.
I heard her tears as she stumbled out of her chair. I don’t know her situation. It could in some sense be deserved. She could very well have a place to stay. As they both left, I looked back to two men sitting at a table behind me, asking them what their read on the situation was. All they said was the two have been there before.
I’ve experienced something like this at least a half-dozen times since moving downtown. We can talk about how much (or how little) I could actually have helped her situation. We could talk about how much money or a homeless shelter would help. But somewhere deeper than how, I guess I remember that she’s somebody’s baby. And I wonder why a person’s very presence makes a claim on us and commands our attention.
And I wish I did know her, some way.