Out on the median today, two blocks from my house, there was someone pan handling, which is an uncommon sight around here. Just over a year in this neighborhood and I know: the big road north of my apartment is the dividing line where the “bad neighborhood” starts. It was on this road that a dentist’s office receptionist told me, through a locked glass door, that the tanning salon next door had been robbed three times in a year. The office was closed and she would not let me in, even after it became obvious that I was not the tanning salon serial robber that haunted her nightmares.
Further north there is a homeless couple I see all the time, the woman uncannily fat and in a wheelchair that has an umbrella duct taped to it, tied with rope to a child’s little red wagon, all of which is steered by a gaunt, short man. The look as though they’ve been homeless for years.
This woman was new to this life. Wearing a pink hooded sweatshirt and jeans, with her brown hair worn down, she has yet to be marked with all the telltale signs of homelessness. When I pass her on the road I realize that I can’t tell if she’s a woman or a teenaged girl. Seeing a teenager begging for change less than a mile away from a High School would be too much for me somehow. No teenager I know would do anything if her parents asked her to, so if she is a girl, I’m assuming that she’s also alone, and I begin to worry more. I’m hoping for some clue written on the piece of cardboard that she’s holding, but I pass her too quickly; unable to read her sign I keep driving.