It is what happens when I am late for work. I fuck something up. Not paying attention or something. But, no matter. I fell today. I fall every day, but this fall was very noticeable. Maybe even grievous.
As I just written, I was late getting to work because I wouldn’t get up in time. So I decidedto stop at the AM/PM to get some gas and a coffee and donut. It was raining and I got wet.
I was pouring coffee into my thermos when I hard a loud voice near the entrance, “GET OUT OF HERE!” I turned around. It was the manager yelling at what was apparently a homeless woman. She held up a five dollar bill and asked if she could get some cigarettes and a 40 ounce of malt liquor. She was dressed in denim shorts that had dark dirt stains on her ass as she wordlessly left the store. I recalled when I had to get some homeless guy out of the downtown Kinko’s where I worked years ago. I yelled, “Get out of here, ” as well. But I couldn’t see why she couldn’t buy cigarettes if she had the money. Unfair. I would’ve let her pay if she had money.
I paid for my gas and coffee and apple fritter and went back out into the dark, rainy early morning. As I began to pump the gas into my truck, I could see the woman being chased out of the gas station across the street as well. I saw her walk slowly in my direction.
Fuck. I turned around and tried to will the gasoline to pump faster before she came over and bugged me, because even though I am not psychic, I just knew what was gonna happen next.
I returned the nozzle to the gas pump and turned around to get into my truck. She was standing right there in front of me holding that five dollar bill. She looked at me. I saw her her face for the first time. Scaggly blonde hair that was quickly turning white. Big blue eyes, dull with little light inside them. Her lips were swollen and badly chapped. There were several cuts on her forehead that were beginning to heal up, as if she had been bashed around good. Yes, she had that battered, weather-damaged face that the homeless carry.
“Please. Will you go into the store and buy me a pack of Bugler’s and a 40 ounce? I have money, but nobody will let me buy them!”
As she stood there, I knew I had lost. Why did I give in? Maybe because I wanted to “right a wrong.” Maybe because I felt sorry for her condition, which I know she is solely responsible for. Maybe because she had the money and still wasn’t able to purchase her booze and tobacco. Maybe because she reminded me a little of Denise. Mostly because I’m a sucker.
As this sorry episode dragged on, I knew full well I wasn’t really helping her by getting involved in this woman’s situation. I was only feeding her consciousness system that was busily destroying her. It was me destroying her in that moment. How sad.
In order not to arouse suspicions with the manager, I paid for the items with my card. It felt strange purchasing liquor at 6:00 am when I don’t drink. And yet, people do this. I paid for the poison and returned to my truck.
Homeless people must develop a skill at being unseen, because there she was again – appearing out of nowhere. I gave her the bag with the booze and the tobacco. “Here.” She thanked me and then asked for a dollar so she could buy a lighter.
“Hey, I’m late for work.”
“But I gave you a five.” I chuckled and pulled out the five and handed it to her. Her face lit up in joy.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you! You’re an angel. God bless you.”
I put the truck in reverse and called out, “There IS no God!”
She replied, “I mean, God bless you.” She seemed a bit displeased having to repeat that, but off she went, presumably looking for a light in the rain.
So I will do self-forgiveness upon this point tonight. Because I am haunted by her dull, lifeless eyes. Not out of guilt, but out of wonder in witnessing the self-inflicted suffering in others.