About ten years ago, I made the acquaintance of an
unusual young woman. Anything out of the ordinary gets my
attention quickly and my curiosity usually overcomes my
timidity. So an attractive young woman, shapely figure,
long blond tresses, and a cute smile, taking up her
position at the subway station as the lead coin-collector
and resident homeless person, brought friendship out
from its customary hiding places within my psyche.
We talked about this-and-that, from day to day,
whenever I got tired enough of my daily chair-warming
job and went out for air. She was warm enough but
reticent to talk about how or why she came to such a state.
In my artistic tinkerings I was into casting bodies
in those days. We talked about in general terms her
coming to my house and my paying her some modeling fee.
However, one of my workmates counseled me against taking
any such step. she was deep trouble, he explained,
because she was mixed up with some heavy, and tough,
cocaine aficionados. So I let the conversation drop.
For the next many months I watched, with quiet
horror, a metamorphosis such as one would only see in
a cheap terror flick. Her hair turned to grey, almost
before my eyes. Her cheeks hollowed out and wrinkles
crawled over her face. Those eyes, which had sparkled
with life before, became empty-milky, in deepening
sockets. After awhile, I could not bear to smile, or
even throw coins.
I am as much guilty of using charity as a rationa-
lization for controlling others, as many other people
from my culture who do the same thing. But I could see
that this was a losing struggle, all the way around,
and could cost me dearly were I to get involved, so
I just let things be.
Another few months later, she just disappeared.
though I feared the worst, I did not inquire.
The other evening, leaving my office for the train,
I was lost in the gloom of more losses on the stock
market, job losses, store closings, and the perennial
struggle to get my management to use some common sense
once in awhile. A hand came out to touch me. It was
Mary! She was glad to see me. A bit of color had
returned to her hair and her cheeks were full and plump
again, and she had a new alertness and quiet dignity.
The intervening years had not been gentle, for all her
teeth were gone and the youth drained out of her face.
But I could see that she was happy. Clearly she had
through divine intervention and her own desire for
self-preservation, changed her ways. She introduced
me to her new husband, a young man whose bravery and
strength clearly outclassed his intelligence, but
he seemed honest and sincere. They had a place
together and were making a real life for themselves.
In these threatening times, I was so uplifted
to be reminded that I don't have to save the whole
world by myself, and that americans and people in
general are not quite so stupid and self-destructive
as we like to say they are, and that hope is alive