More Bemusements: Street Life

31 Dec

Because it’s so close to December 31, Market Street near Montgomery seemed subdued. Tomorrow the street may be littered with cast-off squares of office desk calendars. Tonight, however, Market Street was relatively subdued,without litter, even though I saw a regular, hunched up against one of the pillars near the Montgomery Street MUNI/BART entrance, wrapped in a white bed covering, face quite buried from the glance of a passerby. She’s been there when I go to Mechanics Institute for the writing group; I don’t have the courage to stop and talk to her. Like all too many others, I prefer to stick to my own agenda and not get drawn in.

I did get drawn in once, in a totally different area, Ninth and Irving; a slender young Indo-American was seeking support to get to Mount Shasta. She looked like a model for “Pale Hands Besides the Shalimar” or a Kangra miniature. It was summer time; she was sleeping on the Beach with a dog to protect her. If I remember correctly, she had been thrown out of home in the East Bay by her father for some refusal to follow his proposed agenda for her. I have forgotten whether the offense was a boy friend, her career choice or simply standing up for explorations available in this country to a young woman adult here in the early ‘Nineties.

She garnered enough panhandling to afford food for herself and her dog and could bathe in some public location once a week. I made an attempt to get a ride for her to Mount Shasta where she had friends; we missed connections. I felt six inches high, but was grateful to know she was no longer on the streets. She haunted my thoughts; my image of an Indian family in the United States had not included such rigidity.

Then she was back, minus the dog, blind in one eye. I do not remember what she told me; it wasn’t pleasant though it wasn’t rape. She was working cleaning houses and didn’t entertain a second intervention. Every now and again I think about her; I imagined what it might have been like had I seen her in India. I just hope she has managed some moments of joy and satisfaction with the difficulties such rejection foisted on her.


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