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.