There is a certain crazed symmetry to watching a meth head beg for money.
I know what you are thinking – “There he goes again, making fun of people less fortunate.”
I am making fun, but these people are in a living hell.
But, even the making fun is reserved as I watch how absolutely exhausting it must be inside of the head of Pauline.
Pauline is mid 30’s, looks 60.
There are only a few teeth left, the rest have fallen out.
Her eyes are tired, yet dart back and forth in a manic frenzy.
I am parked at the corner, on my bike, waiting for the light to change.
I have been bicycle commuting as much as I can lately, trying to change my shape from round to more of a V.
Jury is still out on how that is still working.
I have my cycling shades on, so no one can see my eyes.
Which destroys Pauline’s whole game, she relies on eye contact as the go ahead to start her pitch.
The light turns green and Pauline has had no success in her fundraising activities.
Everyone starts to cross the street.
Its not often I break outside of the rotten little shell of shittyness that I wear like a new coat and feel something different.
Pauline is a broken toy.
Like well and truly broken beyond repair.
She is watching me, so I take off my glasses and look at her.
The story, when she launches into it, makes severe ADD look focussed.
Her purse was stolen, or she lost it, or she needs cigarettes, or money, or a ride.
I hold up my hand, shushing her.
“What do you want from me?”
Tears well up in her eyes.
“I want to talk to someone.”
First complete sentence from her so far.
Tears well up in my eyes.
I tell her my name and ask hers.
She begins to slow down.
It occurs to me I might be the first person that is not telling her no or avoiding her in weeks.
Its a sobering thought.
I would throw out a “There but for the grace of God…” line, but it would wring false.
I figured out a long time ago that addictions never stick with me.
Luck of the draw.
I tell Pauline why I am riding and about the 100 mile race I want to do.
She stars a little blankly at me as if the idea of riding for any reason other than to get some place makes no sense.
And maybe it doesn’t.
And I do something I rarely do.
Part with cash.
Same deal as before.
Reach into the wallet, pull out a bill at random.
No matter what it is, I have to give it.
Its a dumb game that is designed to make me feel better on a base emotional level.
Last time I did it, it was just a five.
This time, luck is on Pauline’s side.
She folds the twenty and puts it in her pocket, like a squirrel hiding a nut that someone might steal without warning.
The light turns green for about the fifth time, this time, I decide to go.
“Bye!” Pauline stands on the corner and waves as I ride off.
Not many days I do this, I don’t think I could survive the emotional rip tide of it all.
But I feel better, in a shallow, superficial way.
And I am ok with that.
I’m a fucking saint.