Sunday, June 3, 2012

At the Fire Hydrant

From where I am sitting
I can see her.
She has set up camp right on the corner
of 10th and Ferry on the sidewalk
by the fire hydrant.
Her backpack is stuffed so full
it stands on its own
and doesn't tip over
under her weight as she sits down
on the ground and leans back against it,
stretching her legs out in front of her
as if she were sitting in a Lazy Boy recliner.
Her two trash bags of what
I assume to be her other belongings
sit off to her side.
Through the open window
I hear her talking
to no one around
in what sounds like nonsense to me.
Passers by step out into the street
to get around her,
avoiding looking her in the eye.
Although it is 93 degrees outside
she is wearing a long sleeved
green and blue plaid shirt
over a tattered black t-shirt.
Blue running shorts and brown work boots
complete her outfit.
At the end of May she is already sporting
an August tan on her legs and her face.
A blue baseball cap covers up
her dirty blond hair.
As I leave to walk out to my car
I think I understand why no one
is getting close enough
to say hello to her.
She is surrounded by a pungent cloud
of body odor, dirt,
and the smell of stale cigarettes.
It's hard not to acknowledge homelessness
exists in my neighborhood
when the stench hits me in the face.
Stereotypes and my own biases
stop me from offering her a couple of dollars.
She'd probably just buy a
40 ouncer or more cigarettes.
I reassure myself that she can get a hot meal
at the day shelter in just three more hours if she wants it.
And I too walk on by,
not looking her in the eye.
After all, she's not my responsibility, is she?