Well, what do you know, I found some more to write in this safe series. I’d say “enjoy” but I’m not sure that’s really the point…
She had seen the patrol car pull into the parking lot and knew they were coming for her so she had already begun to walk away when the officer called out to her. She was loath to talk to them. Sometimes, most of the time, they just wanted to make sure she was okay but that didn’t make up for the few times where they hassled her, threatened her, and treated her like less than human. Those interactions always left her worse off and she didn’t need that at the moment. It had already been a rough week.
They called out a second time and she didn’t feel like she could ignore them anymore. She hoped that the edge she heard in their voice was from nerves and compassion rather than nerves and frustration. She turned towards them and smiled. “Good afternoon, officer.”
“We received some complaints that you were harassing the customers here.”
That was a common accusation and she had learned of all the ways she could respond that silence was the best. If she denied it, the officers would scoff. If she admitted to it, they would scoff. If she said nothing, they would usually take a minute to study her and then she would see what kind of officer they were. The good ones would see she wasn’t a threat to anyone, including herself, and then would ask if she was okay. The rest would threaten her with jail, put her in handcuffs, search her, or worse. She didn’t like to think about the worst of the worst.
“You have someplace warm to get to?”
She breathed a sigh a relief, “Yes, officer. I’m headed there now.”
“You want a ride?”
“No, thank you. I like getting my steps in.”
The officer chuckled a little, seemed to study her for a moment longer and then shrugged their shoulders. “Stay safe.”
“Thank you, officer.”
She turned away and carried on, not yet sure where she was headed. She had options, of course, that was the only way to survive long term on the streets. But, that didn’t mean any of them were good options. That depended on the day and who else found their way to the various spots that offered shelter from the cold and the rain. Sometimes the streets were safer because the people you didn’t want to meet found their way to the shelters when the weather turned sour. She was cold, though, and would risk it for a couple hours just to get warmed back up.
Which one to head to, though, was the question. She stopped on the corner of the grocery store parking lot and looked up and down the street, gauging her options. The rain picked up and lashed against her face, driven by a brisk wind coming in from the coast. Each dropped pricked at her exposed flesh like the tiny sharp icicles they were. Still, things could have been worse. The officer could have been one of the bad ones.