homelesswoman

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

The first time I saw her, I wanted to call the cops. I didn’t like her sitting on the bottom of the stairs that lead to the front door of my apartment. I was living in a 2 story house that had been converted into 2 or 3 apartments. 2 if you didn’t count the room directly to the left of the front door that the landlord was using for storage. He was always saying he was going to rent it out but never did.

I had come downstairs and was making sure the front door locked behind me when I saw her sitting there. She was stooped over and there were 2 large bags stuffed with God only knows what. She had a filthy hoodie pulled over her head. She had on a long skirt that covered her dirty sneakers.

I stood behind her, uncertain of what to do. Should I ignore her and walk to my car? Should I say something? Should l tell her to leave? She wasn’t hurting anyone but she made me uncomfortable sitting on the step. She was in the front yard on private property and didn’t belong here.

Her posture was atrocious. I could see that she wasn’t just leaning over; her back had a gigantic hump that forced her head down to her chest. It was as if her neck and shoulder were fused into one piece. She was bent from the waist down as if her back was frozen that way. She was deformed and it looked painful.

I stepped to her right and walked past. Halfway to my car, I turned around and looked back at her.

She was staring at the ground and I realized that was probably as far up as she could move her head. Her face was covered with dirt and her hands were black with filth. Her nails were crusted over with dirt.

I walked a few paces towards her.

“Are you OK? Do you need anything?”

Her eyes looked up at me. They were a brilliant blue, clear and sharp. She smiled. Most of her teeth were gone but the few that remained were rotten.

“I’ll get out of your way,” she said and began to gather her bags.

“No! That’s OK. You can sit there,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure you’re OK,” I said. I felt like a shit for wanting to call the cops on her. I also hoped the landlord didn’t show up. He’d berate her, throw her off his property and call the cops, just to be sure.

He really was an asshole.

She smiled slightly, shrugged her shoulders and said “I’m fine.”

I nodded and walked over to my car, started it up and put it in reverse. As I pulled away, I looked back at her. She was sitting quietly, staring at the ground.

As I drove away, I felt as if I had just left a toddler alone in my apartment and telling myself that they would be alright.

I didn’t see her again until 3 weeks later. This time she was sitting on the bench in front of my house at the bus stop. Stooped over with her 2 bags and wearing the same clothes. She still sat at that horrible angle. There was no way she wasn’t in pain, yet she sat, as she had done before on the porch, quietly, patiently, and not moving. Just looking at her feet.

I thought about going over and talking to her after I changed my clothes but when I looked out my window a few minutes later, she was gone. I doubted she had taken the bus and had probably been resting for a few minutes.

I would see her every so often over the next few months, walking down the street with her bags and stooped back. Her head was lower than her shoulders and I wondered if she could even see where she was going. She had to stare at the ground while she walked. She always had on the same clothes and she shuffled. It seemed she couldn’t pick up her feet very far up off the ground. Or maybe she could but since she couldn’t see in front of her, she had to walk slowly and carefully lest she walk into something or someone.

I began to worry about her when the weather turned cold. This wasn’t usually a concern of mine since the weather in Silicon Valley was mild compared to most of the United States, but we had our cold snaps and it wasn’t uncommon for the winter temperature get into the 30’s. The Bay Area, smack in the middle of the most liberal state in the Union, was known to have the largest and least cared for population of homeless people. Silicon Valley was booming with new millionaires almost daily due to the abundance of high tech companies we claimed to love and adore, but you were only as good as your last million, the last app you created or the last program you coded.

Why was I worrying about this woman who seemed to wander the few blocks around my apartment? She wasn’t dangerous by any means, so why should I wonder where she was or more importantly, who she was?

I began to imagine what happened to her. She had to have been someone’s child, but was she also someone’s mother or sister or wife? Where was her family? Had she been born deformed or did something happen to her? Was she hurt at some point and was unable to receive medical care and now was cursed to pull her dirty and hurt body around the streets until she dropped dead?

“Who is she?” was a question I would ask myself on my couch while binge watching Netflix. I’d get up and look outside my second story apartment window to see if she was walking by. I never knew if I was disappointed that I didn’t see her or afraid that I would see her shuffling down the street again.

One day while standing in line at Walgreen’s to buy my weekly supply of nicotine gum, of which I was still using 2 years after quitting smoking, I saw her walk in. She came through the automatic doors, her chin forced down to her chest and walked past me. A few people jumped back as she went by. My eyes followed her as she turned down an aisle and disappeared. I didn’t mean to stare but I couldn’t help it.

She was here. She walked into a store just like a normal person. I wanted to go find her but felt that was getting into the territory of stalking. Plus it would just be creepy to follow this poor woman around the store as if she were a freak or treat her as if I thought she would steal.

I paid for my purchase and walked to my car. I unlocked it and threw my gum onto the passenger seat, got in and closed the door. I didn’t start my car. Instead I sat there and stared at the entrance to the store and waited. I didn’t know exactly what I was waiting for except to watch her as she came out. That’s all I knew. I just wanted to watch her and maybe talk to her.

I was also afraid of her. I wasn’t afraid of her because of how she looked or that I thought she would hurt me or curse at me. I was afraid of her because I didn’t want to end up like her. If I didn’t get my shit together soon, I could be her in a decade or two or even sooner. Seeing homeless people scared me or made me nervous because even though I didn’t know their story, I knew they had one. We all do.

I didn’t know what I was going to say but I knew I had to talk to her. She had me worried during the cold weather. I wondered if she had a place to stay and food to eat.

I wondered if she was someone who was completely alone in the world, someone whom everyone tried not to see, someone who we all wanted to disappear and not ever have to think about, someone that we were all terrified of becoming since so many of us lived from one paycheck to the next.

I saw her come out and turn right. Without thinking, I got out of my car and walked towards her. She stopped by a trash can, rummaged through one of her bags, and threw something away.

I cleared my throat and quietly walked up to her. I didn’t want to scare her.

“Hi,’ I said. That was all I could think of.

She raised her head as best as she could and looked at me.

“Hello,” she said.

I stood there, staring at her and realized I was about to be incredibly rude, but I didn’t know what to say, so I said what had been on my mind for months.

“Are you OK?” I asked. “Do you need help with anything?”

She smiled. Her eyes were still blue and her few remaining teeth were still rotten.

“The porch steps,” she said.

I blinked. I didn’t know what she was talking about for a moment and then I realized she remembered me from months ago.

I chuckled “Yes, the porch steps. That’s me.”

She was lucid and calm. Her smile was genuine. I couldn’t quite tell her age. Her skin was like leather, brown from the sun, and wrinkled. She could have been anywhere from the age of 45 to 85. I didn’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I thought someone in her condition, who wandered the streets all day, would be crazy and scary.

“No, I’m fine,” she said and stared to walk away.

“Wait!” I said and followed her. “Are you sure you don’t need anything? I’m sorry, but you look like you could use some help.”

She stopped and turned around. I worried that I had insulted or offended her even though that wasn’t my intent. I found myself, for the first time in a very long time, reaching out to someone.

I hadn’t realized it until that moment, and even then I wouldn’t be able to articulate it for some time, but it had been months since I had really talked to someone. I had the usual conversations at work, which were social and necessary, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen any of my friends or done anything other than go to work, worry about money, cry myself to sleep from the loneliness and get up the next morning and do it again.

She looked at me for a moment. “I don’t need any help. Do you?”

I didn’t know how to respond to her. I started to stutter because her words penetrated what social veneer I had left. This was not the conversation I had envisioned. I was prepared to give her money or take her across the street to McDonald’s and buy her a meal. I wasn’t prepared for an actual conversation beyond that.

I wasn’t counting on having her be anything other than grateful for my charity and me feeling like I had done some wonderful and selfless and contributed to mankind, something that would get her out of my head when it was cold.

I was talking to her to help MY conscience. That fact struck me in the face and I felt ashamed.

No, a conversation wasn’t what I wanted but I didn’t know what it was that I did want.

“I’m OK. Could be better but can’t complain….” I said and felt my words fall flat.

She snorted and for some reason, that made me chuckle.

“Look, I’m sorry if I’m bothering you and I don’t mean to offend, but honestly, you look like you’re having a rough time and I was worried about you. I know that sounds strange, and it IS strange, but I keep seeing you around the neighborhood and…well…I just wanted to know if you had a place to sleep…and I’m making a fool of myself, aren’t I?”

“Would you like to treat me to a cup of coffee?” she asked and motioned to the coffee shop a few doors down.

So we went and had coffee. She told me her name was Bernie and she lived in the neighborhood. I didn’t ask where. We chatted about the weather and I never once asked her any questions. I figured she would tell me whatever she wanted.

I glared at the people who stared at her and made them turn away out of shame for staring. I had a look that could turn a person to stone if I was pissed off enough.

She told me about the recent book she had read and recommended it to me. Reading was her hobby and passion. The bags she carried had some clothes but mostly she carried books. She would find the little free libraries throughout the neighborhood and take a book and then put it back when she was done and take another one.

When it was time to leave, I stood up and helped her with her chair and bags. I wasn’t sure if I felt better or worse. I had a million questions for her but even with the way she looked, she had a air of dignity about her.

“Well, good-bye Bernie. I’m sure I’ll see you around, yes?”

“Most likely. Thank you for the coffee, Susan. I enjoyed your company,” she said. She reached into one of her bags, rummaged around and pulled out a book. She handed it to me.

“I think you’ll like this one,” she said and walked away.

“Thank you!” I said and looked down at the book. It was used, which is just the way I like them, but it was in excellent condition. It was “The Black Ice” and it made me smile. I had mentioned during our conversation how much I liked the series by Michael Connelly.

I watched her shuffle down the sidewalk until she was out of sight. I got in my car and drove home. I wasn’t sure what I thought or felt, but there was a part of me that changed. I had reached out to a stranger and nothing bad happened. I talked to a person that may or may not have been homeless and realized it wasn’t money or food she wanted; it was the company of another person who sat with them and listened. She wasn’t that different from me. We were both lonely and for a moment, we weren’t.

After that, I’d look for her on my porch every morning when I’d leave for work and I always felt disappointed when she wasn’t there. I still have some used books in my car to give her, if I should ever see her again.

Advertisements

 

Honestly, who hasn’t? I know I have. In fact I have two I’ve written but haven’t published yet. One is done and just needs the finishing touches on it and the other one haunts me day and night because it’s not quite done.

I have lots of “reasons’ for this. Don’t we all? But my reasons are simply a matter of time because as a ghost writer, I have plenty of time to work on writing for my clients, but when it comes to my own work…not so much.

I always dread coming to the end of a project. I know I”ll miss the work and the inevitable friendship that blossoms between me and my client. It can’t be helped. I’ve climbed inside their head and walked around for a very long time. I get under their skin and listen to their story. I obsess with every detail and work and work and work until I find THEIR voice, THEIR thoughts, THEIR emotions and put them into THEIR words.

I do it for them. It’s all about them and I love that. I LOVE helping someone get the story out and then seeing their smiles – and sometime tears – as everything they had bottled up and couldn’t say, is finally out. It was said. It was written and it will live forever, long after they are gone. Their story will continue.

It’s a total rush for both of us.

Everyone has a story or two. Not everyone can express it, but that’s where I come in. There’s a wonderful feeling of being anonymous and being in the background and helping someone shine.

I could tell you some of the stories I’ve written for others, but then I’d have to kill you. OK, not really.

One day I was searching for something online. Up popped a gazillion links on the subject. As I scrolled down the first page on Google, one link caught my eye. I looked again and clicked the link. It brought me to a blog I had written for someone else that I had completely forgotten about! I KNEW the words were familiar. Ha!

I was proud to see my words ranked so high on Google. *twirls and bows*

If you need a ghostwriter, hit me up. I always love meeting people and writing their stories. There’s no drug that compares to the feeling.

So tell me, what story do you want told?

I had a very interesting conversation the other day with a male colleague of mine. He’s a very wonderful man and the same age as me, which is 62. So that puts us in the age of when things were much different at work than they are now.

Actually, not different just at work but just about every place we women exist in. What I mean by that is I have seen many changes over these 6 plus decades and we are definitely heading in the right direction. But we all know we have a long ways to go.

He thought it was very sad that all of these things were happening and it was making it unsafe for men in the workplace.

My response was dripping with sarcasm (that probably burned holes in the floor as it dripped off my teeth) “Oh how sad for you and all the men. It breaks my heart that you now feel a bit unsafe in the workplace. Must be terrible.”

This stopped him in his tracks for about half a second and then he continued to explain his point to me. I actually did understand what he was saying but the problem was, he was not understanding what I was saying.

And there we have it. I looked at him and asked “Have you ever told a man that he was acting inappropriately towards a woman?”

He sort of looked around and mumbled a few things while I sat back with my legs crossed and just looked at him with a bit of a smirk on my face. I couldn’t help it.

For that is the point. It’s not that we will get rid of men who act badly towards women. They will probably always exist. Always have and always will.

What we need are more men stepping up and putting those bad men in their place. You do that enough times and hopefully they will learn that they can’t get away with it anymore.

We don’t need any more talk about this. I’m sick and tired of having to hear this shit as it hits the fans. Yeah, I’m glad this is in the headlines and people are talking about it, but the question is, what are you willing to do about it?

I’ve survived, as many women have, endless times of being sexually harassed and assaulted. We women know all about this. I’m just sick and tired of good men looking at us with a blank stare and asking “What are you talking about?”

I’m sorry but they know damn well what we’re talking about. This is not something new to them and I think their objection is that they’re being held somewhat accountable now for the actions of others.

As well they should be.

Weinstein had a whole shitload of people that helped him with his abuse for decades. Believe it or not, it’s not so much his abuse and being a predator that pisses me off. It does, but it’s all of those people that helped him with it for so many years. He could have been stopped dead in his tracks if just one person had stood up to him. Okay maybe not one. Maybe it would have taken hundreds. I don’t know.

And maybe there were people that did and we haven’t heard about it. If so, I would like to hear from them and find out what happened.

Evil and badness exist simply because we let it.

So to all my male friends and colleagues that understand, I thank you.

Now you guys need to get the show on the road and get this shit to stop. We’re sick and tired of it.

It was an episode on Longmire and it made me cry and feel like crap. I cannot handle it when an animal feels bad, let alone gets hurt. I can’t even deal with an animal feeling sad. Even when I know the animal is rescued at the end of the video – only because it was posted that way and they said so – that the little creature was scared actually keeps me up at night.

I don’t want to know these things, even if it all turns out well. I. Don’t. Want. To. Know.

I only want to live in a world where everyone and everything is vegan, even me. I’ll never be a vegan, but I want to live in a world where I am. Where animals graze on grass and lions don’t kill zebra babies to feed their babies. Sometimes nature sucks and don’t tell me it’s beautiful. It’s not. Killer whales tearing apart a seal to keep from dying isn’t a world I want to live on but here I am.

I want to live in a world where a woman of my age still has value. I don’t, but I want that world. I want the world where someone of 80 has more value than me and I’m good with that.

I want to live in a world where I can write and type because my hands haven’t gone numb and made it almost impossible to post anything without hours of pain and frustration.

I don’t have all the answers but I have enough to know that there is a lot more right and beautiful about people and this planet than most will have you believe, so I like where I’m at and I admire my intelligence with the knowledge that I don’t fit in, never will, and my crushing loneliness is just the way it is.

And I’m good with that. Better that than chronic neck pain from nodding in agreement with people who don’t know their asses from a hole in the wall and have no idea there is a world outside their sense of self-importance and value.

I don’t know if anyone out there in the great cosmic universe cares, but that’s never stopped me from blogging. Ha! I thought I’d do a series of writing posts just to stay in touch with everyone and see what’s up. I’m not around much anymore as social media annoys the living shit out of me and I’m hustling daily to make the money to pay the bills.

I used to feel ashamed to say that, but now I don’t because you know what? Unless you’re extremely wealthy, you’re in the same boat as me. I’m currently up to my eyeballs in editing this beast of a book. I have wracked my brain trying to put it together and make it work, when it suddenly dawned on me – I’m trying to write something that should be broken down into smaller pieces. Like a series of smaller books.

God knows I love writing and I also hate it at times. This story prompted my Patreon site and got me the best patrons in the world. But when the day is done and the sun has set, knowing another day is just a few hours away, I realize (once again), that writing is fucking lonely. So much so that I have to lock myself away every night (and sometimes during the day) just to make some progress.

Then I found a wonderful invention – the library! Oh God, how could I have forgotten that? The library, where there are books everywhere you look and tons of places to sit quietly and read or write or play solitaire on your computer. So on the days when I don’t have to go to the office – most days – I grab my notes, pens, pencils, laptop, Kindle, phone and sneak away every afternoon and escape. It’s hard. It’s really hard for me to sit very long and concentrate. I can do it if I’m talking to someone, but it’s a whole different thing when I’m alone with my thoughts (too many of them), pinging around in my head.

I’ve taken to keeping a notebook with me AT ALL TIMES and also jotting down notes in my phone. I find the more that I do that, the more ideas I have. But this story is different because it’s a true story and as I’ve written it, so many other things in my life have popped up. Good things and some really bad things, which I don’t want to think about, let alone write about. But there they are, staring back up at me from the page.

Things that have made me flinch and sometimes cry. Things that have made me smile and pat myself on the back. Things that I wish had never happened and mistake that I’ve made that still make me ashamed and wonder “What in the actual fuck was I thinking?”

Yeah, those things. I’m at the final stage of tearing it apart and putting it all back together again. I’d rather have a root canal without any Novocain. OK, maybe a slight exaggeration but not by much.

I worry all the time that my writing sucks and I’ll never be good enough. I tell myself that I’m full of shit for thinking that, but the thought always lingers, always present if not buried. But it’s there.

To any writers out there, what do you do to push yourself through something you don’t want to do anymore or don’t want to put down of paper? I push myself through it, painful as it is.

I’m not a famous writer. I’m not well known. I go my own way as I see fit. There are a few things I’m “supposed to do” that I don’t do as a writer:

  • Attend writer groups.
  • Hang out with other writers.
  • Talk about my writing. How boring is that?
  • Get feedback. I’m not that interested in feedback. I just say I am to be polite.
  • Read all types of “writing ideas” and tips on how to write, what to write, or how to come up with inspiration. I went down that road and it fucked me up.
  • Outline and plan and plot the story. I just write the damn thing.
  • I don’t follow the “rules of writing” (there aren’t any on my planet) because they are nonsense. They annoy the shit out of me.
  • I don’t rewrite. I write and submit/publish my first draft. When I have tried to rewrite, the work never got done. I’ll scan it a few times, looking for typo’s or awkward sentences. That’s about it.
  • Try to learn how to write. Not possible. You learn by doing it and figuring it out yourself.

I started to write this story based on a very simple and quick thing I saw in the news. It was the London riots back in 2011. I was online a lot at that time – Google Plus, which has since been ruined by Google – and this was all over my stream for days.

I wondered what I would do if that started to happen here in my city. I figured I’d get a gun and sit on the porch and wait. Then I thought if I would protect anyone and that’s how Lena popped into my head.

Guns scare me, but I’m much more prone to protect someone else, so I’d probably do that if riots started happening here.

I believe that all inspiration comes from within and that all fiction has some degree of truth in it. Could be my truth, or your truth, or some truth from a drunk trying to bum money out of me.

Somewhere out there, Lena and Eli exist in some form. I know this to be true. That’s my truth and that’s all I need. I saw the two of them, sitting on a porch with guns, drinking beer and waiting for the assholes to come down the street and cause trouble.

It was as clear in my mind as much as this monitor is in front of me. I let them tell me their story. I listened, struggled, and made it much more complicated than it ever needed to be.

Once I knocked off my nonsense, I got to work and finished the story that I had started years before.

That’s my new thing – finishing what I started and getting it out there and hope for the best.

To me, this story is about two women who had nothing in common, each with their own demons, who somehow found a way to tame them together.

The story of two women who can’t be more dissimilar and yet form a friendship that defies all the odds until the day death drove them apart.

I capped it out at 15,000 words, but it could easily be longer. Maybe I’ll do that someday.

But for now, I want people to read it and take something from it. I write for me, first, and then for anyone who wants to read it. I write the stories I want to read and put it out into the cosmic universe and go onto the next one.

I hope you’ll check it out and never give me your feedback. Seriously. Unless you like it. You can tell me that.

Here’s the link for my site. $2.00 a month is all. Skip a cup of coffee this month and toss it over to me. You’ll not regret it.

My fabulous Patreon site

images

I had the pleasure of talking with a young man yesterday. He’s a friend of a friend and came into the office. Let’s call him Gary, OK?

Gary has been in the United States for 9 years. Prior to immigrating here, he was an attorney in his home land. He has no intention of being an attorney here but is still passionate about human rights.

He told me a story of working for someone here in the US. The man underpaid his employees and was a criminal. Gary, very intelligent and fluent in English, caught-on very quickly what illegal things this man was doing and that he was taking advantage of his employees, many of whom didn’t understand English and did not know their rights.

Gary tried, several times, to get the man to change his ways, but he refused. Gary watched as the employees worked hard yet didn’t know they weren’t even being paid minimum wage.

Gary played a little dumb (smart!) and told the man he would sue. The man laughed at him and blew him off.

Gary then started a class action suit against him. He gathered up all the employees, made sure they understood, took care of them and sued.

And they won. $2,000,000.00 of which Gary took very little from.

For you see, like me, he doesn’t give a crap about money. He just wants people to do well.

I asked him “As someone who has come from another country, what do you think about the US?”

With no hesitation, he said “You know why this is the greatest country in the world? Because we can all come here, be protected, and live our lives. You know there are so many people who want to kill all of you? You know that most of us don’t and that we love you, your government and your Constitution and will die to protect it? Each and every one of us are proud to be an American.”

I choked up, got up and hugged him. I thanked him for being here, for caring about people. He hugged me back.

He talked about our history and I was beyond impressed.

“You guys are rebels and you flipped off those that sought to control you, tell you what to think, what to believe, and how to live. You told them to go to hell, broke all the rules and opened your hearts to the foundation and basis of your country – freedom of religion and that’s why we’re here.”

Remember that our system works. It may not be perfect, but it works.

You just need to be more intelligent on how to use it.

When you rant, rave, share degrading meme’s and pictures of the President of the United States, YOU HURT YOUR CAUSE! You are doing so much more damage and personally, I’m sick of your shit.

I don’t give a flying fuck what you think because you are being an out-of-control idiot and will never get your message across. Those of us who you might have had a conversation with and might have gotten some help, you are immediately muted and written off as stupid.

Here’s some advice from someone who has had 40 years of success in getting people to act:

  • Speak intelligently and talk to each person as if they are important, because they are.
  • SIMPLY state ONE objection and be very specific in that ONE objection.
  • Answer people’s questions AND LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY.
  • Give them ONE THING to do and help them do that.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Carry on and get your emotions under control. You’re hurting your cause when you react.

/done