I saw a young homeless girl crying on Lexington street, today. She was no older than me, and it was morning. She didn’t even look haggard, in sweatpants and jacket, at first. I was having my last smoke before work, and I was beginning what would be a very long day of hard, detached, lonely, unsexy recompense.
After she caught me looking, I turned my head away and tried not to let the cycle of self-extolling humility begin. I was smoking, and holding still next to the street minimizes the time hundreds of strangers have to stare at my smoking face. But even though my surveillance of her was reduced to peripheral, she’d honed in on me. I felt the love lost over the years involuntarily flood back into my mind; every one I’ve let go of, indifferent to their fall. There’s just too much space in the world to retreat to…but so instead of repulsion, I went straight to empathy, and felt so trapped–there was nothing I could do for her, and she was that refused love embodied, an alternate version of my present self’s desire, sitting there, never reached, a love I’d never gotten to, who recognized me as someone that could have saved her, if I’d only come earlier. This was as glaringly empathetic as it was narcissistic.
I couldn’t even finish the cigarette–every glance to her was a knife to both of us, and I felt real, genuine tears portending behind my sagged eyelids. She was keeling forward, in cries of anguish that sent her down in step-wise descent, cycling back up to a better height to fall from, burning what’s on its way down.
I wiped a single tear from my left eye, and walked into my corporate internship.