Monday, November 09, 2009

She really was quite beautiful.

He was driving downtown for, of all things, a co-worker's organ recital. Like, a recital on a church organ. He supposed it was an important church organ, or his co-worker was an important organist, or maybe it was the anniversary of some important composer's birth and/or death or whatever.

He fed the first available parking meter and started walking the three blocks to the cathedral. It was exactly 12:06; four minutes until the recital was to start.

Half dreading the concert, half welcoming the retreat from the everyday, completely lost in his thoughts and walking on autopilot, he actually didn't hear her the first time she spoke to him.

"I'd like your wallet, please," is what she said the second time, the time he heard her. He had no idea what she said the first time.

"Mmmmmm, not today, thank you," was his reply. A couple years living in Chicago had taught him the most effective brush-off for the homeless ("Mmmmmm, not today...") and his parents had raised him right ("...thank you").

He kept walking.

"I said, I'd like your wallet, please," she repeated, making him think that's probably what she had said the first time, the time he hadn't heard her. And to further emphasize her point, she raised her right hand, the one with the gun.

He'd never seen a gun being held threateningly like that. Hilariously, so mindful was he of the recital's 12:10 starting time, that it was only then -- when she made with the gun-pointing -- that he stopped walking. The downtown traffic stopped and started with the changing reds and greens, and a couple other pedestrians walked past them on the sidewalk, but it was as though they were the only two people in the world. 

Just them. Them, and the gun.

He looked at her, really looked. She was quite beautiful.

He guessed she had not stayed anywhere with a shower for at least the last couple days, but she was quite beautiful. Her curly auburn hair was unruly, and her clothes were wrinkled and torn, but she was quite beautiful. Tears and snot and smeared make-up streaked her face, and her knuckles were scabbed and bruised, but she was quite beautiful.

"But I need my wallet. And there's not very much in it, anyway," he said as he pulled it from his pocket and showed her its contents.

Her mouth fell open. He wondered if she was surprised that her approach might be working, or surprised that he had objected at all in the first place, or surprised at how little really was in the wallet: a few bills (all ones), a couple credit cards, a library card, and a driver's license.

He took out all the cash -- seven one-dollar bills -- and handed it to her. "I'm sorry it's not more," he said. "But it's the best I can do right now. Maybe it'll help? But I really do need the rest of this."

"Yeah," she said.

"Yeah," he replied, echoing her tone almost exactly. "I need to go now."

He turned and walked toward the cathedral; she turned and walked the other way.

She really was quite beautiful, he thought.


Pamela Reilly, Naturopath and Living Foods Life Coach, CNHP, CPH said...

What a beautiful story. Did that really happen to you? Having worked in a homeless shelter for several years, I can vividly picture the spirit of this woman's desperation. Thanks for sharing this.

Scott S. Semester said...

It mostly happened. My mom reads my blog, so I'd like to keep its ripped-from-the-headlines-ness hush-hush. It's only been a little over a year since the events that inspired this post happened, and I typically have a wait-five-years-to-tell-Mom-stuff-like-this rule!

Ket said...

I really like how you told this story. Also, it's a fantastic illustration of Midwestern folk: The thief, who says please, and the victim, who says thank you.

Ah, the heartland...

But wait, I just realized - was this before or after you broke into my sister's house? ; )

Scott S. Semester said...

Hahaha, for the record, this was before my foray into the world of B-and-E. Which, by the way, was totally authorized by the homeowner, but still.

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