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.