During the late fall and winter when I arrive at my shop it's well before sunrise. I like to get here early as it gives me time to have a cup of coffee and eat my breakfast, then read the local liberal rag. Most of my customers know this about me and normally leave me alone. I'm a bear in the morning.
A few years ago I was here in my back office (the boar's nest) sipping my black brew and reading the paper when my door chime rang. I waited thinking the offending person would read my posted hours and walk away...it rang again.
I fold the paper and sit aside my coffee and walk out into the waiting room, pull aside the door curtain and see an older woman beneath the street lamp. She appeared cold and disoriented. I unlocked and opened my door, asked, "May I help you?"
I had a hard time at a guess of her age. She could have been anywhere from forty to fifty, even older. She held a strong odor, not pleasant. Her clothing consisted of, I think, shorts and a very dirty down to her knees t-shirt. Flip-flops on her feet. Her hair was a crows nest of snarls and stringy and by my nose alone I could tell she hadn't bathed in days.
It didn't take a genius to know she'd slept across the street in the city park. She held an old much used blanket, rolled under one arm, and a brown paper bag in her left hand. It was cold outside, guessing the low forties. She shivered.
She didn't respond, at first. Shifted foot to foot. Would not look directly at my face. I felt sorry for her.
I get this all the time. My business is located (like I've said) across the street from a large city park. It has a baseball/softball field, basketball courts, a combined restroom, a very old railroad caboose for the young ones, and a democrat shower. The democrat shower is a flat basin which contains a fountain activated by sensors. It's used frequently for bathing by the urban campers. Like my early morning visitor.
Again, I asked as she hadn't answered my question, "Is there something I may help you with, 'Mame?"
She caught me by surprise. The lady, all in one motion, dropped her dirty blanket and her brown paper bag, and took the hem of her shirt in both hands and jerked it high over her head, as she said, "You gots a dolla?"
I was exposed to two very saggy, down to her navel, breast. I was so caught by surprise my next action was to darn near fall flat with laughter. I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. It was the sight of this poor woman's flat breast, all fat I'm sure, long eaten away by her obvious alcoholism and extremely poor diet. I soon controlled my fit of laughter. Then my shame set in and I'll felt like a fool.
She had dropped her shirt back in place and was stooped to retrieve her items when I said, "Please, I'm sorry."
Her, "It's okay, I get it all the time. I'm just hungry." Not sure I believed her. Probably wanted a drink. But who am I to judge, even if I do so on a daily basis. Still doesn't make it right. So I reached into my pocket and gave her a five dollar bill. Said, "Hey, sorry, it was worth the show."
She smiled, took my money and walked away. Haven't seen her since.
There but for the grace of God go I.