It is late afternoon. I am bored and have read my fill of the internet. I wander down to the shopping center in the late afternoon sun. Nary a cloud is in the sky and the warmth of the low hanging winter sun splashes upon my face only interrupted by the occasional tree or house as I walk through my neighborhood. The day has warmed up quite nicely.
I pass the newspaper office and a few cars are sitting in the parking lot. I think of late deadlines as editors ponderously peruse over today’s newsworthy items for tomorrow’s edition of the local paper getting ready to publish. I don’t envy them of such a job. Early next morning will soon arrive and a sea of delivery cars will adorn the parking lot to deliver the paper in the dark hours before sunrise. People will wander out to a new morning sun to gather their papers only to be entertained by the unexceptional news that a small southern town can generate in one day. The daily police report is one of the most hotly read columns.
As I approach the many dumpsters behind the shopping center, a lone bicycle is propped up against one. An elderly black man crawls out with something in hand. I remark to myself how popular these dumpsters have become for scavenging. Dumpster Diving Dan has the right idea to hit them so early in the morning. That old adage the early bird gets the worm comes to mind. I haven’t seen Dan in days and hope he is okay.
I walk past the hair salon and the tax preparation office as I round the corner. Rosa is sitting on an isolated bench far down from the main part of the shopping center. She looks deep in thought as she holds a can of soda. I take a seat beside her and drum up a conversation. I notice her hands once again as we talk. Just like the many lines on her face, these calloused hands tell a story; a story that is not often told as it is normal to not let your steely guard down that most people put up.
“I have a daughter,” She tells me as I offer her a cigarette from my backpack. “I haven’t seen her in years.”
“Does she live near here?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” Rosa says with a forlorn look upon her weathered face.
“I’ve never had any kids,” I say. “I don’t think I ever will.”
“Never say never,” She replies. “You are still so young and life has a way of bringing the unexpected.”
I realize there is a bright, wise, and beautiful woman underneath that drug worn and unflatteringly rough exterior. She was probably beautiful once and was courted by many a man. She now sits tired in middle age with her thoughts about a past life. Idle days trying to stay clean and sober with those thoughts are not easy. Much like my own long days I have experienced this week broken only by the safe confines of the meeting halls of A.A. every night.
As I leave Rosa, I hand her my spare pack of cigarettes and my almost spent spare lighter from my backpack. She smiles softly revealing a few missing teeth.
“Thank you,” She says. “You made today easier.”
I genuinely just wanted to bring some small comfort to another soul. I needed someone to talk to and she was there. I left her staring out in the parking lot watching the middle class ladies with their glamorous SUVs busily chattering nosily upon cell phones as they all made their way to the many stores in the shopping center to spend their money. Rosa doesn’t have much and her life is far removed from these ladies I just spoke of, but she has a story to tell; a story much richer and vibrant than those of those milquetoast ladies leading uninspired lives filled with the frivolousness of modern American life.