Saturday, January 26, 2008

bandits and princesses

It's dreary here but the sun peeked through a bit through the cloudy grey so we decided to walk to the outdoor market and get some air. M, see, she needs this air because she's contrary these days, everything is no, no with stomping, wailing, no.

So we walk. We walk and at one point practically have to drag M, her contrariness revived by the cold air. We walk through the market and out the other side and down around the block on our way to an actual store for necessary sundries and ah, in search of a princess dress. M, see, she's been wanting a princess dress for the longest time and against my better judgment and her overbearing contrary we decided to see what we could find.

So as we head towards a big box we hear something loud. A roar of sorts. Jen. I stop and look back and barrelling over is a guy I know from the streets. He crosses over and walks right up, I can smell him as he approaches, scotch, I think. Maybe whiskey. Ah, I say quietly, to J. I like this guy but he's kind of crazy.

He reaches us and says hello and I introduce him to J. I know this guy, he says and he punches J on the arm and grabs his hand. You've brought him around before. I don't think so but I am glad you guys are finally meeting now. Ah, that musta been another guy. And laughs and punches J again. The men talk for a minute but I soon interrupt, where you staying where you been how are you you look too thin. He looks at J and rolls his eyes. She's always meddling and wanting to help when some people just want to talk but then turns to me and is serious for a minute and says I'm sick of the shit over there and I've been pretty sick too. I'm still taking medicine and trying to figure out a place. I remind him of an earlier conversation, a guy who can help, I know, he says, we've just lost track. I get his voicemail number and stick it in my pocket while he plays with M. She's contrary, I warn and say more quietly, she's been a pain in the ass all day. She's a kid, he says, it's all she's got.

What are you guys doing over here, he asks and I tell him feeling sheepish now about the princess dress, feeling utterly pedestrian talking about things we don't need to buy with a guy who sleeps outside. I notice he needs a shave and really has gotten thin. Ah, I should take J with me then and leave you to it, we could go shoot some pool. J laughs and probably thinks that sounds better than today has been so far too but would never say it out loud. Well, you guys take care, you know J, I've known your woman a long time, ten years or so, probably longer than you. She's good people but I bet you know that already. I smile and look away, in these moments both worlds collide and it's never quite comfortable, his poverty and the disparity of all of it challenges me, especially out in the open on a Saturday.

J smiles and says ten years, man, that's great. I'm glad I've finally gotten to meet you too. They lapse into the universal language of men, football picks and the big game next Sunday. He's got to go so he gives me a hug and shakes J's hand, rubs M's hair and hops back on his bike. Too late I remember we have a banana, one I brought along for M. He rides off and I say aimlessly we should have given him that banana, he's probably hungry and J nods and says ten years? Yep, I respond, but he went away for seven of them on some bullshit charge and I remind him of the story he's already heard. Seven, he says, and we fall silent for a minute until M reminds us where we are supposed to be going with a stamp of her foot.

30 comments:

slouching mom said...

wow, jen. this was a powerful post, with its contrasts, disparities, cameraderie, wants, and needs, all mixed up together, all complicated.

flutter said...

I know this totally isn't the point, but you are getting so amazing at the structure of writing, Jen. This was breathtaking.

TZT said...

I concur with those above me - this is a powerful post, written wonderfully. Thank you for taking us to such a complex place so vividly.

radical mama said...

I just love your storytelling, Jen. That's all I got. M is just so lucky to have you. I wish I could know her in 20 years to see how she remembers things.

Anonymous said...

You continue to amaze me, Jen, in so many ways. The way you love, the way you live, the way you write...all of these things that make you unique and incredible. If there were more people like you in the world, it would be a much better place. Thanks for making a difference.

laurie said...

That was me, by the way...

Mad Hatter said...

Yes. A polished jewel of a post.

liv said...

what slouching mom said. i think she said it best. you really are rocking along.

QT said...

What a great story to for a Saturday, jen. There is so much there to digest. And yes, what slouching mom said.

Orangeblossoms said...

There's this world wherein I feel ashamed of what I have and want to give more than I have.... and I want to help.... and I want the worlds not to be so dispirit. And we engage the journey as it comes, don't we? Thanks, Jen, for this.

kristen said...

I'm always uplifted when I read here, friend.

Dude, I'm fairly certain I've got a lot of princess dresses that I'd be happy to pass your way. When it gets light out (yes, we're up before dawn), I'll go in the garage and find them. xo

Omaha Mama said...

It's got to be so hard to find boundaries when your two lives collide on the way to the store. Still, please don't let it make your life seem frivolous. By all accounts, you are not materialistic or snooty. Your princess deserves a dress and you work hard to be able to get her one. Don't forget that too. You do a lot of good, and when it comes back to you - you've got to accept it in its many forms.

Have a wonderful week.

Joker The Lurcher said...

the colliding of worlds... you write so well, jen

Mrs. Chicky said...

It all seems so simple but difficult all at the same time.

pgoodness said...

good people, indeed.

Julie Pippert said...

You are good people. Especially for indulging the princess dress thing. :) We do, too. It's because it's about style and expression--she hasn't got a clue, I think, about the Disney Princess concept. It's really more crow: things that sparkle and shine.

Kyla said...

I agree, good people. We're all lucky to have you.

hele said...

I think you taking the time to speak with him and introduce him to your family might have meant far more to him than receiving a banana would have.

crazymumma said...

shes a kid he said its all shes got.

and he remembered you after 7 years inside.

all children need a dress up box, and princess dressses should be worn every day.

You took me on a fine journey today Jen.

Ally said...

Looks like you found your voice again.

I don't know how you do it, Jen. How you write so beautifully in a way that pierces my heart. Here you were, just on a simple walk on a Saturday. I'm so thankful to get to walk in your shoes and put on your glasses, even if only vicariously through your posts.

alejna said...

I love your stories, too, and your way of telling them.

Your bandit sounds like an interesting character. Of course, so do you.

patches said...

Sometimes we're more self conscious about disparities than those we interact with...the disparity is important, and you've dedicated your life's work to re-establishing the balance. Don't sell your contributions short, and remember acknowledgment and interaction are equally as important.

It's always challenging when you care.

Family Adventure said...

To me these two worlds seem like galaxies apart, like there's a huge abyss between them. And yet somehow you manage to straddle the two...make a connection.

But the one thing that's left with me, is the banana. I wish he'd gotten the banana.

I hope he's all right.

Heidi

wheelsonthebus said...

You've reminded me of an incident a few months ago. Zach was being contrary. He did not want his apple. We passed two homeless people and I suggested to him that, since they were hungry, we should give it to them. He resisted and I forced the issue, finally giving it to them. Later, he was fine with it, but for about a half hour he whined about giving away that apple.

Did his Mommy proud, he did.

Emily

Arwen said...

You work with homeless and I work with corporate america but I am just as uncomfortable with the two worlds colliding as you are. We are going to San Juan next weekend to go to a wedding of a colleague and my family will meet a number of co-workers and ex-clients and it is just going to be weird.
Fortunately there will be tequila.

KC said...

Complicated. Beautiful. Yes.

Contrariness- we have plenty too.

Jennifer said...

I love the way you write, the pictures you paint and the impressions you leave.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

beautiful post and juxtaposition on how complicated things in life often are.

Mommahbear. said...

Powerful, Jen.

Wow.

carrie said...

I wonder, in other countries, where healthcare and service are available for EVERYONE, if this is as big a problem as it is here?

You are good people, Jen. You are.