I go into work and my manager tells me that there is a crying Asian woman sitting near where we work for Playhouse, downtown at 6th and Main, and that I should go see what's going on. Apparently, he saw her when he came in 30 minutes earlier, and now our newest recruit saw her when he came in 5 minutes ago. So, the manager asks me to go see if there is something "we" can do.
How the feck does he know me so well????? That sonovabitch pays attention, that's how. I actually asked him today how he knows me so well already, and he said, "Well you're so transparent, and it's wonderful!"
Okay so I go down and there's this woman in her 20's or maybe early 30's with all her worldly possessions around her, and she's weeping so hard she can't even be bothered to talk. She does have broken English in her possession, when she does finally say a few words. Very few. I sit down next to her and ask what is happening and she tells me her husband left her there. Periodically, she smacks her hand into the concrete violently, as if hitting him. "I want him dead," she says. "I want to kill him." I ask her if he is going to come back. She cries. I assume he is an asshole and that he is not coming back.
When I take her into my arms, she weeps harder. The tears cascade down her cheeks and she is beside herself.
The Arabic man from the parking garage that always brings peoples' car keys up to them at the Playhouse subscription office - he comes over to see if he can help. There's also a drunk man on my left hand side, his eyes red with alcohol. He's not born American either, and he says to me, without a clue he's being insulting, "You're a bumpkin." I explain to him, kindly because I know he doesn't have that clue I mentioned, that "bumpkin" means kind of stupid and ignorant. He is appalled. I tell him it's okay. He wants to tell me how his life is so miserable because he had a back operation, and he has pain everywhere.
I want to focus on the weeping woman. So I do.
Parking Man and I are trying to help her. He bends down and is oh so gentle with her, trying to stop her from hurting her hand when she smacks the concrete. I feel sure that she is not accustomed to a man being so gentle and caring. All she can do is keep looking down and weeping uncontrollably. He looks at me and says with his gorgeous Arabic accent, "I can't stand it. I have a child. This is terrible." I don't know what to tell him, but I nod sympathetically.
I ask her what she needs most: a place to stay? Really, it takes quite a while before I can interpret the tiny head nod that hides among the other motions of her trembling lips and that rhythmic hand slap, and her sobbing. So, what are we to do? We can't leave her there!
While we're sitting there just sort of taking it all in, a tall, middle-aged, slim blonde man comes up and asks what is happening. Parking Man tells him she is in trouble. Magically, Blonde Man takes a bill out of his pocket and it is a one hundred dollar bill! He sees me next to her with my hand on her back, and he leans forward to hand it to me. He says, "Give it to her." Which I do. As quickly as he arrived, he is walking away, and I call out, "Thank you!" He says, "Oh, it's not from me! It's from --" and he points skyward.
I call out, "Well...thank you both!"
I am the only one who thinks this is funny, apparently. He keeps walking.
A man who does cleaning of the streets is among the other of the first people to try to help, and he says he does cleaning work at Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS), which is a few blocks down the block. He says that she seems to him to have been abused, and that she is shaking. Though I don't see the shaking, the abuse part makes sense to me. Cleaning Man says, "I know they will help her. They have so many departments in there, and it is their job to help people like her. It is their job! They have to. They will!" He was adamant and passionate.
But the problem was that none of us could walk her down and stay with her to make sure she was taken care of. We all had to be working. And there was no way in hell she was going to drag her suitcase, her three hangers of jackets, her plastic bags, and her weeping self down to ODJFS when she could barely breathe.
I suddenly remembered that there is an Ambassador service downtown. This is crazy fabulous, and I just learned about it two weeks ago. You can call these people and they will freaking walk or drive you anywhere around downtown. For nothing. Yes. I'm looking for their number in my phone, but Parking Man says we should call the police.
Which I eventually do, after not being able to find the damn number for the Ambassadors. I am waiting for a black-and-white to pull up, but no, it's a cop on a bicycle. And she is like, "So what's the problem?" and I'm like, "Uh...this woman here was abandoned and we need to get her to ODJFS," and she was like, "Well that's not our problem. That's not what we do," and I'm like, "Excuse the f*** outta ME???" - no. I didn't say that. I did, however, say, "Excuse me?" What the hell happened between 1957 and now?
Anyway, the cop was getting more and more exercised about the fact that they're "busy", and I'm getting more and more exercised about the fact that this is bullshit and completely lacking in compassion, and the woman next me just continues to sob. I mean, it's been at least 90 minutes since she was spotted by my boss and my new co-worker, and since I came downstairs!
So I am simultaneously looking for the Ambassador number - where the hell IS this thing, goddammit! - and trying not to kick the shiznit out of the cop for getting angrier and angrier with me. Especially when all I am trying to say to her at this point is, "I understand what you are saying, that this is not your thing to deal with. I know, you do criminal, not civil. I hear you. So, what do we do? Do you have any suggestions? We need an answer of some kind. Can you call on your walkie-talkie thing and see if anyone has a suggestion???"
And then I think, "Fuggit, she's a pain in the ass, and I am going to call the damn Ambassadors."
Which is when she decides to call someone on her communication thingy - sorry, I'm not a cop and I don't know that damn word any more than I did the Ambassador phone number! - and ask someone what to do.
It as at this point that a woman with a fantastic hair cut comes up to us and asks if someone has a t-shirt. I kid you not. She says she's homeless, and has that ingratiating smile that says, "I know I'm trying to con you, and I'm hoping you think this smile is an admission that I'm a pain in the ass, and you'll feel sorry for me." So, she is asking for a t-shirt - why????? She is wearing clothing, for God's sake. What is HAPPENING here? The weeping woman is clearly feeling so unworthy of oxygen, even, she says, "Take it!", gesturing toward her clothing. And I immediately turn to the homeless woman and say, "No. This woman is in worse shape than you are right now. These are all her worldly belongings. So, no. Do NOT take anything." The woman stands there smiling that infuriating smile for about a minute, and then realizes she is not welcome - finally - and leaves. I'm pissed and disgusted. I am also realizing that that such misery can also attract vultures, and I'm grateful that there are about four of us now trying to help in one way or another.
Meanwhile, Parking Man can't take it any longer and he asks her if she needs something to eat. She makes the tiny, almost imperceptible head nod that I have learned means "yes", so I translate this to him, and he walks into the Izzy's that is literally next to the low stone wall we're sitting on. The head nod eventually lets us know that she hates Pepsi and Coke and will take a 7-UP or something like that. He buys all of this for her, and he even tells me I can use his car to take her down to the ODJFS - he trusts me to bring the car back.
All I can imagine is me taking her down there, having to somehow muscle her out into the place, with all of her stuff, and then stand in line for God knows how long, with her weeping still beside me, and try to make sure that she is taken care of.
I want to be a saint. Really I do. But maybe not today.
Plus, what the hell do I do if they can't help her??? Dump her back on the street????
Anyway, fortunately the cop has made progress. After quite some time a black-and-white van does show up, and I tell the weeping woman that the police are going to take her to the Women's Shelter. Having finally found the damn Ambassador phone number, and even having called them and learned, miracle of all miracles, that they are so caring and compassionate that "hell yes, we'll take her to the ODJFS; we'll bring a car for her!", I have gotten a Post-It note from Parking Man and written the instructions on one of the sheets about where to reach them, and where they should take her tomorrow.
Parking Man takes the Post-It Note and puts it into her purse. I hope to God she can find it tomorrow.
This. This on top of children in effing concentration camps. It's absolute insanity. What the *#@ is happening in this world? What the *@^#!
And I think to myself, "This is why I'm here. I can't fix this. But I can be compassion in a world gone mad with blood lust and terror. It feels like too little, but it isn't. It's compassion. And in this world that is A. Big. Deal."
Jesus, I think to myself, why did I think coming to Earth was such a fantastic idea???
So, I tell the weeping woman where she is going and that tomorrow she should call the number on the Post-It note. She tells me she doesn't have a phone. I ask if her husband kept that in the car along with her I.D., and she is incoherent again so I don't understand. But at least she understands what is happening to her.
We pick up her bags and clothing and get it into the trunk of the car. I put the lid back onto her food and the new policewoman says the weeping woman can keep it with her in the backseat. So Parking Man and I bundle her into the back seat, and I stop him from closing the door so that I can lean in. I take her into my arms again, and again she weeps harder. It just hurts that this woman has so little care that she feels love like a wound. Dammit.
I say into her ear, "You just have to keep going. Just keep breathing. Sometimes it's too hard to do anything else, so just breathe. In and out. Just keep breathing, okay?"
And then she and the cop car are gone. I look at Parking Man and I put my hands in prayer position and say thank you, and he smiles oh so warmly that I once again say to myself "fuggit!" and I give him a hug.
And I go back to work.
Much later, when the day is ending, my boss says to me, "You're a saint!"
I say, "I'm a saint who swears!"
He says "No, but I mean to go down there and take care of that woman!" Well, hey, you asked me to, right?
But the fact is, what else would I do? I care about people. I know how badly this life hurts, and how ill-equipped we are to handle it, really.
Kinda sad, when you think about it, that just being kind, and caring, is seen as saintly. It should take a whole lot more to be seen that way.
But these are the times we live in.
So I remind myself that a little compassion goes a freaking long way. And I remind myself to give it to myself too.
And I get on the bus.
And I go home.
This is what I guess you'd call the spiritual part of the Goodbye Good Girl Project. If you have come to one of these blogs, you might want to check out the Project's mission and see if I can help you claim your voice, your authentic self-expression, and the sharing of your messages and missions.