She crouches down to take a piss on the outside of the old city building in which I sit, on the other side of the glass, sipping a glass of wine. Her hair is a knotted mess and she’s wearing only a bra despite the freezing winter temperatures. This poor deranged woman, now desperately trying to get a car – any car with a merciful driver inside – to take her heavens knows where. They continue, however, to drive on past. The sight of her in such a vulnerable, helpless state, in full view of the cruel public, is wrenching.
The rain is coming down hard now, slashing against the mirror-windowed high rises in the heart of downtown, running in thin rivers along the sidewalks and streets, washing away the dirt and the tears and the piss, as if the falling water could somehow baptize even the saddest of strung out creatures. The woman is young, so young it is jarring, although I’ve no idea why her age should matter. My bones clench even at the thought of it, someone so young in such a situation as she finds herself, let alone the actual sight.
Christmas has come and gone in a flash. The holiday parties continue, however, and I scroll through my phone to see where I need to be and when for the rest of the week. In what kind of world do such gross disparities exist side by side for ages. Where some should have far more than they deserve and some should have none of it. We make our plans and close our eyes. We hurt and ache inside and never speak it for fear of the quiet panic leaking out, echoing the sickening sound of reality.
As the masked waiter pours me another glass of wine, the woman on the street picks up her sopping wet dog, rain sliding off of its matted fur right onto her bare skin, and moves off down past the laundromat and out of sight, into the cold dark night. The relentless traffic rushes past as I stare, a bit stunned, a bit numbed, up at the garish naked yellow bulb of the corner street lamp which glows as though it’s helping anything, like a nauseating man-made sun.