I don’t know what happened to the brown woman.

Today I wore sandals. The air outside is nice and warm and daffodils and forsythia are blooming. But because I live in the state of confusion, the high tomorrow will be about 40 degrees less. Off with the sandals. On with the boots. Again.

Around here, the flowers aren’t the only thing that show up when the temperature rises. I also start seeing more homeless people. I don’t know where they’ve been (and shame on me for that), but I do know that in past few days I’ve seen more and more.

You have to understand about where I work. It’s a fairly large, private university that sits on 300 acres of immaculate greenery. The majority of the campus is ringed with giant magnolias that form a veritable force field between the school and the outside world. Step behind the magnolia curtain and all is pristine and earnest. Step outside it and the real world takes hold–the world with litter, fast food and homeless people.

There was one woman in particular who used to pique my interest. She was Caucasian and very weather-beaten, brown from head to toe. Her stick-sized arms and legs looked brittle and she always looked filthy, too. She couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds and she always had on an over-sized quilted coat that would’ve covered a person three times her size. One time I was standing at a corner, impatiently waiting for the light to change so I could meet a friend for lunch. I noticed that she was standing beside me. She caught my eye.

“Hey,” she said, reaching into the pocket of her giant coat, “wanna beer?” she asked as she offered me a tall boy.

And I wondered, yet again, what it is about me and my husband that makes people in out-sized clothing want to give us free beer.

Here’s a story:

One time we were in London. We were at a pub–a regular people’s pub, not one in a hotel or one that overtly catered to tourists. We were at a small table minding our own business…having a pint, eavesdropping on the locals who were eavesdropping on us. Suddenly, a large man in an even larger coat sat down at our small table. He was very friendly and his next beer would not be his first of that day. We didn’t mind–that’s what makes traveling fun. Then he reached into one of his deep pockets and pulled out a Foster’s oil can (that’s 25.4 oz.) and drank it in about 3 minutes. That’s when he decided that my husband was actually Dustin Hoffman. Husband assured him that he was not Dustin Hoffman. (Husband, for the record, looks nothing like Tootsie, the Graduate or Ratso Rizzo.) After a while, he got a little loud and out of control and the manager made him leave. He protested that Dustin Hoffman was his best friend, but the manager prevailed. But not before he had given husband an oil can of his own.

But that brings me back to the brown woman. Why would  this woman who has nothing want to give me her beer? I wish I knew. And I wish I knew what happened to her too.


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10 responses to “I don’t know what happened to the brown woman.

  1. If I had the kind of face where people would just constantly offer me beer, I’d…nevermind. I totally have that kind of face.

  2. mongoliangirl

    Did you take the beer? I hope so. I’m a big ol’ lush from way back and don’t remember ever being offered a tall boy.

  3. I adore these “moment in time” sketches. And you painted it vividly . . .

  4. Julie Fisher

    Blessed are you who receives from all the “brown people”. So much of the world hides behind those magnolia trees learning lots of great stuff indeed, but not a thing from such as your brown person.

  5. Hmm. That is interesting. I’ve never heard of people offering beer.

  6. I think if people are going through the trouble of carrying around an extra beer for you, the least you can do is be ready with a bag of pretzels.

  7. Rass: come South…I’ll fill you with beer.
    MG: I didn’t, but husband did. I should’ve.
    Ty’s Daddy: Thank you so much…I have fun writing them.
    Julie: Yes…you understand the why the brown people don’t go behind the “curtain.”
    Jen/Cubicle: It’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
    Dingo: LOL–that’s a really good idea. I usually have salt and sweet ‘n low on hand, but I should add pretzels.

  8. I know that woman!!! Not personally, but I know who you are talking about. I liked seeing her for some reason. I thought she always looked like she just walked off of the beach and I wonder where one could get a tan like that around here, for free no less. It’s nice to know that she’s friendly. At least friendlier than the crackhead with the blue beads in her hair that is always screaming at cars.

  9. You should go around approaching people with large coats on a Saturday night. It would be a cheap way to go out and have a few.

  10. I guess you just have ‘that look’. I’ve got the same look I think…

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