She's often there when I'm walking home. Perched on top of the hill, leaning against the white bricks of the 7-eleven building. She sits on a concrete garden, usually with a sleeping bag crumbled up in a heap next to her. The lights from the store bathing her in an artificial glow, but she seems to be in shades of black and grey making her look more like a shadow. Her face is dark, some days I think it's her addictions that have etched themselves on her, like a permanent reminder that she will always be captive to them.
Her long hair is tied in a pony tail, it's always the same. She is usually dressed in dark clothes, I haven't noticed what shoes she wears.
She has scars on her arms, her face, her neck and her hands. I see her picking them sometimes like she's provoking the skin beneath them to spout back to life.
It's not that easy to shed the layers of death from oneself. Once lifelessness takes hold of you, it won't let you go.
While she picks, her eyes seem distant as if in an unhappy trance. They seem disconnected to her hands and oblivious to the pain of her peeling scabs, one by one they float to the ground beneath her. Like petals falling off a flower.
Next to her often lay unopened packets of food that well meaning people have purchased. Usually it's junk food, sometimes there are sandwiches, bottles of water or a lone banana sitting on the dirty concrete ground. I wonder if those who purchase these engage in conversation with her, or just go into the store, buy what they think she may like and leave it next to her as a sacrificial offering. They walk away probably feeling a little less heavy from the guilt of seeing her sitting there every day. A little more satisfied that they felt that they were able to help.
She never begged for anything. There is never a cardboard sign and she never asks anyone for anything. She just sits there quietly looking at the ground mostly, sometimes gently rocking.
I initially noticed her because of her dog. Otherwise she would be just another shadow on the fringes of my city. Someone I would barely acknowledge, and if I did, it would be out of pity rather than empathy. But her dog, who lay under the blankets with her eyes peering out from underneath caught my eye. A white light in the cloud of darkness. Her fur is matted and dirty.
What's her name I asked the woman before even looking her in the eyes. Honey she replied in a dull voice. How old is she, I demanded to know. Young she replied. I snapped out of my fixation around Honey and looked at the woman. I'm Tina. What's your name.
Her name is Bec*. That's all I know. I have spoken to her a dozen times since that first time, but that's still all I know. She doesn't give much away. She won't tell me where she sleeps, why she's on the streets, if Honey is eating ok.
When I ask her if she needs something, she always say no but then asks for money. I never carry cash, so it's easy for me to say that I don't have any and leave her feeling exacerbated. She would only use it on drugs anyway I tell myself.
For a while I thought about how I could rescue the dog. Now I think about how I can rescue her. I wonder about how I can save her, or if I even can. I also wonder when I don't see her, on that corner, if she has died. Perhaps lying in an alley somewhere waiting to be found. Probably of a drug overdose. Would anyone grieve for her? Would anyone miss her? Would her life matter?
Imagine if you didn't matter. It's not easy to imagine that if you are you. Probably someone privileged in comparison. But easier if you imagine it if you imagine yourself as Bec.
Imagine that we were conceived, born, raised then died without anyone noticing we were here. Imagine if Bec only matters to that little dog that hides under her blanket.
A picture of little Honey left abandoned and confused and circling Bec's unresponsive body startles me. To rid myself of this dark heavy sorrowful image that now seems to sit heavily on my heart, I go into 7-Eleven, take out $5 and give it to Bec. I feel atoned.
We have nothing in common Bec and I except that we are both women and perhaps that we both love Honey. Yet if I was to hold up a mirror to our souls would they share more than just that? Perhaps shared pain maybe even shared joys. Her joys being a distant memory, mine being something that I can easily withdraw from and deposit into.
I think of a world where I could simply gift her some of my joy and my hopes and my dreams. If only it were so simple I sighed.
I walk past Bec's corner tonight but she's not there. I sigh a breath of disappointment and relief. She's alright I tell myself. I dig my hands in my pockets and keep walking towards home.
I'll probably see her tomorrow.
* Not her real name