The weight of all of her things

I am participating in the Indie Ink Writing Challenge. Each week I’ll be tackling a challenge issued by another writer participating in the exercise. This week, Cabot gave me this:

Go to a public place, pick a person, and write about who you think they are, what their life is like.

This is what happened:


I live down the block from a group home.  An assisted living sort of facility for people who aren’t able to live on their own because of a variety of mental or emotional issues, but they aren’t so far gone that they require a permanent home in a psychiatric facility.  Although, I’m not sure who determines what level of supervision these people require because as a complete and utter lay-person, I’d say a few of them could do with a little more.  And I don’t say that with even an ounce of disrespect.  They’re doing the best they can under circumstances that are beyond their ability to control.  There are just a few that, if they were family of mine, I would want more care for them.

Walking up and down the street on which my office is located is a woman.  Everyday.  All day.  She carries all of her purses, of which there are generally 5 or 6 of them, slung over her forearm.  They slow her down, drag her down, hold her back.  The weight of whatever she keeps in her bags sometimes keep her from carrying on.  She’ll rest on businesses’ steps or on the retaining walls by the public lot where I park.  She’ll sit down with her purses and mumble to herself.  Sometimes she’ll yell at the kids who roll by on their skateboards.

I once saw her in the morning drinking what looked like balsamic vinaigrette straight from the dressing bottle.

One time, when she was especially agitated by the local hooligans, she spouted a seemingly never ending diatribe regarding the dangers of smoking.  While a cigarette dangled from her lips.

And then there was the time I saw her sitting on the steps of the post office, crying a deep, sorrowful cry.  Tears hot with pain, the sort of cry that hurts your throat and burns your stomach.  I don’t know what she was crying about because I didn’t ask, but I’m not sure I would have understood her if I had.  She was crying for herself.  For whatever was tearing her apart at that moment.

The weight on her shoulders is more than the sum of whatever she keeps in her purses.  She lives with her illness, pushing down on her and keeping her from blending in to her surroundings.  She doesn’t sleep on the streets, but she lives there.  She walks its length with all of her things, carrying more than just her physical baggage.


40 thoughts on “The weight of all of her things

  1. “The weight on her shoulders is more than the sum of whatever she keeps in her purses.” This is a beautiful line and so telling. We live down the street from a place just like this and I see that heavy burden every day. I can’t help feeling that it is the weight of a broken heart. This was a very nice piece, well done.

    • I feel the same way. Like, where is her family? Not that I’m judging her family, but even if they have every reason to not be around, it still must break her (and others’) heart.

  2. I enjoyed this post – and all the other short stories. Keep it up – write about whatever you want, it is YOUR blog 🙂

  3. I love what you did with this. I was a little afraid that you would be uncomfortable with the challenge. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. I find myself watching others while I’m out and about. I wonder about them, how it is to be them. I wonder how they see the world. I guess at what they have experienced in life by their actions and appearance. I wonder how that has affected who they are.

    We are all broken, it’s just a matter of degrees and perspective. Often I focus on my own flaws but I also think it is vital that we try to wear someone else’s shoes, to show empathy and accept rather than judge. I want to understand. Many times I find it’s easier for me to do that with others instead of myself. I place unrealistic expectations upon myself. We all have limitations but that should never be a reason to justify superiority or inferiority. We are all human. Reality is relative to the sum of our individual experiences.

    • If I wasn’t a little uncomfortable, it wouldn’t have been a challenge! I loved it. It gave me a chance to write about this woman. I’ve been wanting to for a while, but haven’t thought of the right way to go about it.

  4. I think about those I see in a similar situation, and I feel a lot of sadness. Whether they’re homeless or have a mental illness, I often think about what their story might be and I often wonder if anyone else notices them as I do. You captured many of the thoughts/emotions I feel. (And now I know I’m not alone in that recognition.) 🙂

    You did a wonderful job with this challenge!

  5. To put a real personal note to this… Her name is Jane and she loves to get your opinion on which of her purses is the best…she also loves hair accessories like different colours of ponytail elastics… and most of her purses are empty.

    • I love that mom knows her…

      And I’m loving all the short stories and creative writing, Jen! I read so much garbage on the internet, fill my brain with what people are wearing at Walmart or who got drunk at the Jersey Shore (wait a minute…you write that, too…) Anyway, the stories are great!

    • I knew you knew her, but I couldn’t remember her name.

      I remember you told me she spoke to Avery once and that it was the most sense you’d ever heard her make.

  6. This is wonderfully well written. When I see people like this, my discomfort comes in the realization of how I’m now and will always continue to be some small circumstance away from being in their position. I spare them my pity because I know how much I’d resent it. Empathy is the great equalizer.

  7. like a cowboy steak – well done

    I love the last paragraph. It hammered the emotions stretched out over the rest of the piece. Good job, Canada.

  8. I felt like I was looking at this woman, seeing her on the streets! I liked that you didn’t tell too much of her physical appearance, only through emotions. Great job!

  9. This was quite lovely. You leave me very curious of this woman, probably because there’s one like her in town almost every day, though she was some sort of illness that keeps her from standing up. She’ll have to keep her back down all the time, and look up at things… — Nice work :]

  10. Pingback: The Week In Review: March 14-18 Writing Challenges

  11. I see people in similar situations and think is sad. I sometimes wonder if what I perceive as a person in need. For me is difficult to watch somebody struggle without hope. But then, it might only be a perception. Nice piece, it is though provoking.

  12. Pingback: Four Years, Seven Posts |

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