sweet and milky, satisfying and bitter.
i am happy as i leave. i am full of hope.
a woman on the corner greets me, shaking a newspaper and crying for change, anything to help her. the corners of her mouth look raw, her hair matted, her skin leathery, dirty, tan. despite the sun she wares a heavy jacket.
i hold my three dollar coffee and my two hundred dollar iphone.
i listen to her say “these people” to another homeless woman. meaning me, and all the people holding three dollar coffees and two hundred dollar phones.
what am i to do? how am i to help? should i be ashamed?
thoughts as i cross the intersection, as i cross from the edge to the meat of the tenderloin.
“what are you going to do? beat me? huh? beat me? what are you going to do?” a woman’s raspy voice at the bus stop i approach.
the man standing over her keeps badgering her. her eyes linger on the building across the way, the one splashed with the colors of a fantasy. a fairy looks out, doe eyed, mouth agape. there on the brick she exists among trees that don’t. the woman at the bus stop smokes a cigarette. she crosses her arms.
the next bus comes in 11 minutes.
the woman gets up, walks off. the man watches her go before skulking across the street. a plastic bottle of liquor peeks out of his jacket pocket. i imagine what life as a whore might be like, what life beneath the thumb and brutal eye of a pimp would feel like.
10 minutes until the next bus.
tightness grows in my chest.
there are people, in cars, on sidewalks, on cell phones. there are people chatting, laughing, glowering.
a cop car rolls by. the cop stares at me.
the tightness grows and grows.
at a red light turned green impatience draws forth a honk. i am mid-sip, i am startled. i spill coffee on myself. a man walking by is a witness and laughs. he turns around, making sure i see him, and laughs. he shakes his head. i am the funniest thing he’s seen all day.
i am reminded again of a recent conversation about my frazzled nerves, about the need for grounding, for safety and security within my own body.
a man approaches, slips a hello, and smokes not-weed from a pipe. his back is to me. i hear only the lighter ignite and see only the smoke, curling into the air.
a tall man shaped like a rectangle saunters through the intersection wearing a pink shirt with letters reading “tough enough to wear pink”. another body, a woman pitched slightly forward, takes the final drag of her cigarette and flicks the butt to the ground. she hobbles off toward the sidewalk.
“you got a sweet little ass there,” the man smoking not-weed says to me. somehow i anticipated this interaction. i turn, connecting with his eyes, dark and startled.
“please don’t talk to me like that,” i say. i am gentle but wonder if i should be.
“oh, pardon me,” he says and turns back to his not-weed, to his pipe. a few seconds later he walks away.
2 minutes till the bus comes.
i step out from beneath the overhang of the bus stop. i turn my face up to the sun to catch the light. there is blue sky. there are clouds. i close my eyes.
“one minute till the bus!” a man says to another man. down the street the bus hulks and screeches. hissing its way to me.
when it stops, a kind man with a cane lets me onto the bus before him. i thank him and take my seat, a little less hopeful. a little less naive.