Yup, it’s definitely a woman. I wasn’t sure at first, her hair’s all matted and it’s covering most of her face. I crouch down, not too close, just to see if she’s okay.
She’s sleeping, but her lips are dry and cracked, and she’s clearly dehydrated. It pains me to see, and I wonder – not for the first time - how people can just walk on by, do nothing to help. I pull out a large bottle of water from my sack, placing it next to her. Then I have second thoughts, someone could steal it if she’s asleep. As much as it pains me, I’ll have to wake her up.
I’m about to place a hand on her shoulder, but I hesitate an inch away because there’s a piercing, dark green eye staring right back at me. She doesn’t look amused. “I’ll just… leave this here,” I say with a soft smile, though it’s a gesture she probably doesn’t appreciate. Still, she takes the water, unscrews it and gulps hungrily, now staring me down with both eyes open.
“Someone who’ll look me in the eye. Been a while,” the woman says, wiping her lips, her voice a little dry and crackly. I sit myself down in a more comfortable position, fold my legs under one another and rest my hands on them. The floor’s hard, and cold, chilling me right to the bone after just a few seconds. It brings back awful, bitter memories.
“How long you been out here?” I ask, trying to make the question sound casual, trying to appear approachable. She simply laughs, then looks away, slightly shaking her head, and I notice there’s a deep sadness in her eyes. I wasn’t expecting an answer, but it doesn’t hurt to try. “Do you need anything else? Food?” Again, no answer… just a distant, pained look.
“Don’t waste your time talking to that one, lady!” I hear a man’s voice, and I twist my head around. There’s a chubby guy in a green shirt and apron, wearing some sort of flat cap, “she don’t talk to no one, no more than a few words anyways,” he says, then walks away, a smell of grease and meat following him.
The woman continues her silence, looks down at her hands, does anything she can to ignore me. It doesn’t surprise me. What people don’t realise is how hard it is to literally have nothing, live like this, try to survive one day to the next. What they especially forget is homeless or not, these are still people. People who hurt, feel, and more than anything still have pride. So no, they might not feel like striking up a conversation.
“Going to sit there all day?” the woman speaks, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Sorry. Look, I’ll leave these…” I get out a pack of sanitary pads. Her expression softens as she quickly takes them, and tucks them away in an inner pocket. This is the worse part, at least if you’re a woman. You think it’s bad to be homeless? Try homeless and bleeding, in a world where free sanitary products don’t exist. Condoms? Sure. Protection from bleeding all over your clothes, yourself and the street? Absurd. In fact hey, let’s stamp tax on it, too. I grit my teeth, try to stem my anger at the injustice of it all.
“Thanks,” the woman mutters. I smile again, and avoid the temptation to brush the hair out of her face. She looks so damn pale…
“Anytime. I’ll swing by tomorrow… and here, take this,” I say, handing her one of my cards. It’s got my name, number, and a coin taped to it. On the reverse, the address and number of the homeless shelter down the block, “You need any help, call me, or the shelter.”
She takes the card, and looks at each side, “Korra. Nice name.”
“Thanks,” I say, standing up, patting my jeans down, then bidding her farewell so that I can continue my rounds. I always give a new face my card. Sometimes they do call me, but the problem is, they’re usually too scared. And like I said before, they can be proud. It’s the main reason so many of them don’t give the shelter a try, though I suppose it doesn’t help that the place is so damn full all the time.
I take one last look behind me before I leave. It’s the same sad sight as always… people are walking on by, acting like she isn’t there, totally desensitised to the people living on the street. They turn a blind eye. They make excuses. My personal favourite is the one where they think the money will be used for drugs. I mean, really? They don’t have a house, they’re sat on ice cold concrete, and they’re hungry! They just want a damn bite to eat, and warmth, and maybe even a helping hand to get them out of this shit hole. And if they want to get high, or drunk, I sure as fuck wouldn’t blame them anyway.
I angrily thrust my hand into my pockets, curse under my breath, and remind myself to donate twice as much to the shelter this month, maybe three times, maybe whatever I can damn well afford.