Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Cry in the Alley

"All I've had is Misery—for years and years and years and years and years and years and years."

She wailed this into the cellphone that may or may not be in the hand cupped to her ear. She's dressed well enough from what I can tell from my third-floor window, yet her shopping cart holds the telltale signs of a homeless life.

Just a moment ago she had shouted a few expletives that drove me from my much-needed sleep to my back porch. Country folk have roosters; in my neighborhood, we have the cries of the distressed or the demented or the drunk reverberating off the walls of buildings. I always have to decide which it is so I know whether the police should get involved. (Not sure why I think like that. The police rarely answer a call on my street.)

You know what people sound like when they sob or scream from someplace deep in the fibers of their souls? When they use every scrap of air and energy to expel whatever demons and sorrows are barnacled there? I don't know how to spell that particular sound, but this middle-aged woman uttered every syllable of every word that way—explosively, plaintively, desperately.

I sounded like that last week in my car. But I was by myself. In a closed container. This woman was on a very public stage expressing her grief.

"I don't like it here," she continued.

None of us would. None of us would want to be in her shoes in that alley in that moment of time. I wish I could hand her a salve for her spirit or relief from her life.

Instead, I'm writing to you—passing on her woes. How should one respond to a cry in the alley? 

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