safe 4

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.

safe

She spent her mornings hidden in the cart return of a closed grocery store.  The alcove provided shade and gave her some privacy to just be, away from the judging eyes she dealt with the rest of the day and away from the predatory eyes that came out of the night.  Sometimes the patrons visiting the neighboring stores would catch a glimpse of her and hurry their steps away.  Other times they would stop to talk, or offer money and food and she accepted those.  She never asked for their charity, though.  She didn’t stand out in the open with a sign, announcing her presence and begging.  That wasn’t really what she wanted even if it was what she needed.

Her only possessions were never out of hands’ reach, in an old and battered backpack she had picked up somewhere along the way.  When she found herself with extra cash, for one reason or another, she would go to a laundromat and wash her clothes.  Once she even splurged on a hotel room so she could have a proper bed and a hot shower.  That had been a long time ago, though, and she couldn’t remember when it exactly was.  Just as she could no longer remember the story that went with each of her missing teeth.  She knew some had rotted out and some had met more sudden ends but that was the end of it.  She kept her nails long and her hair short.  Occasionally she would pal around with others like her but for the most part she enjoyed solitude.  She found it hard to trust people and she had found there was usually more safety in being alone.  Everyone has issues and when she was by herself she only had to deal with her own.  But humans are social creatures and when she felt the craving for someone to talk to she would visit the places where she knew she could find someone.  Then it was only a matter of striking up a conversation and finding someone to pal around with for a couple days.

As the foot traffic in the shopping center picked up, she would pack up her bag and wander off.  There were a series of parks nearby where she could sit in the shade of a tree to pass the hottest part of the day.  Then as they heat began to dissipate, when the nightly marine later rolled back in from the coast, she would head towards the spots she knew she’d be safer during the long hours of darkness.  Just safer.  There was never a guarantee of absolute safety no matter where she went.  But, as she had realized when she made the decision to live on the streets, homes only provide the illusion of safety as well, there is no place that is and will always be completely safe.

help! help!

The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!  Seek shelter, go underground, escape, run away, hide!  The sky is falling!

Oh…  Wait, are you sure?  Really?

I guess sometimes living in Southern California we forget what rain is…

Nevermind, no need to panic (I’ve got my towel*), everything is going to be okay**.

Now, if we could all just remember how to drive in the rain, then everything truly would be okay.  Not holding my breath on that though.

…..

*Sorry, couldn’t resist the Hitchhiker’s Guide reference.
**Always remember, the answer is 42.