under a bridge, mourning
It was early spring, chilly outside. We’d been coming to the bridge for several weeks, but not long enough yet for it to feel like home. We still felt… different. We arrived with a stack of pizzas to share and a smile, as usual. We stood under the bridge while the rain came down outside. A young woman sat staring at her pizza, tears running down her face.
I sat down with her, and asked if she’d like to talk. She was quiet… She told me that her boyfriend had died, and she missed him so much that she didn’t know what to do. She sobbed about how lonely she was. Then she got angry about how he had overdosed—that’s drug abuse, she told me. She uses, but doesn’t abuse.
I’m really astounded to say this, but apparently it had never occured to me that someone like her could mourn. (Isn’t that a horrid thing to say?) Allie was homeless, and she had the marks of a drug user—skin blemishes, patterns of tooth decay. She was a woman who spent her time doing things I couldn’t really understand… And she was mourning. She was sad, and scared and lonely. We talked for a half-hour or so, while we ate. Then, she got up and ran off, as though she had an urgent appointment. (This happens a lot, I’ve discovered. Once the need for food is satisfied, other needs come up and become more urgent.) I didn’t see her again for months.
The last few weeks she’s been showing up when we come to the park. She’s always friendly. From the conversations we’ve had recently, it’s clear to me that she has no memory at all of the first time we met.
The week after I met Allie, we came back to our spot. Allie wasn’t there, but this time there was another woman I’d never met. Candy actually pulled me aside. She asked if we could talk.
With all sorts of stuff swimming in my head about why we’re doing this and how great it is that someone is interested in receiving the loving attention we’re offering, I sat down with her. She told me her boyfriend had overdosed on heroin. (Huh? Is this Candid Camera or something? Is it a test to see if I’m gullible? Hey, you wonder this stuff when you’re in a strange place without a clue what you’re doing!)
This story was harder… She’d been abused by this boyfriend, and she’d dumped him. He informed her, the night he overdosed, that he was going to kill himself, and that it would be her fault for leaving him. Then, he proceeded to do it.
So here she was, alone outside, with no counselors, no help dealing with the mourning, and no help with the guilt and abuse, either. Her only help came from men and beer. And this one lady who showed up with pizza, and listened.
Posted by Angela under stories
Sunday, July 19, 2009