by Alexis Chasney
I wonder if you would stop. If I stood on the corner, the grit from the sidewalk between my toes, chaffing the bottoms of my feet protected only by a thin rubber flipflop, the grime from days of waiting thick on my skin, sticky, making me seem two shades darker, the wind creating a nest out of my hair, twigs sticking out every-which-way. Would you stop? Would you roll down your window and smile at me standing there, back hunched, eyes sunken into the dark caverns that surround them? Would you smile at my witty sign?
My jeans torn, fraying at the end, dark blue color worn by the beating rays of light from the sun, my teeshirt hanging loosely from my body, not touching the ribs that eat through my skin, I would stand there, waiting. I would wait for you, with your shiny car freshly cleaned by men with rough beards beginning to show on their faces and blackened hands slick with oil that dries beneath their fingernails, the inside mats vacuumed and the rims on your tires’ mirrors reflecting the white light back in my face, burning my eyes.
I would hold my sign, my skinny arms–your thumb and index finger could easily overlap around the brittle, boney limb–exhausted by the weight of the cardboard, the black markings turning gray. You would drive by, eyes straining to read the printed lettering, a smile creeping across your face as you finish. Waiting at that red light, me staring, you feeling awkward; for a moment, you would understand a piece of my life.
You would desperately hope the light would change, that green would grace your eyes and you could leave this corner where the brick wall behind me is crumbling and the sidewalk is covered with ancient pieces of discarded gum that have melted into the ground; polkadots. In your SUV you would sit, trying to whistle to the music you donâ€™t know that plays on the radio, looking at the blue sky where power lines hang, birds perched patiently on the black cords, looking down, waiting; gazing at the black plastic dashboard, a small piece of gray dust standing victorious having evaded the rough rags at the carwash; tapping your fingers on the steering wheel and fidgeting impatiently in your seat.
Glancing back to the street corner, your eyes lightning fast, I would barely notice the falter in your wall, the mortar between the stones cracking just so slightly. I would stare back–my eyes never left you in the first place–, watching the crack spread into a spiderweb of faults crawling from the ground to the last brick high above my head. I would attempt a smile, my teeth showing through parched lips, dark brown clots crawling through the faint pink flesh.
The wall surrounding you–guarding you, built by a society that tells you all beggars want money to buy beer and drugs, asking why you should spend your well-earned cash helping some vagrant on a street corner–would keep me out. But you would reach into your back pocket as that wall crumbled down, leaving my feet buried in a mountain of rubble. I would struggle to move them, free them from their tomb, and walk towards your open window, a twenty dollar bill waving like a banner in the cool summer breeze.
I would extend my arm, waddling still towards you, within feet of your car, my fingers almost closing on the bill, on my next meal, the first meal in days to satisfy my growling stomach that ached in the night when I tried to sleep on the cold cement sidewalks that bit into my brittle bones. I would lean towards you with my hands, caked with dirt and grime, far from the white hands they once were–wrinkled and thin, the blue veins bulging in the papery skin.
But then, the light would change and the cars would begin to move. You would look at me and then at the cars in front of you, the cars that were slowly becoming farther away; you would grow frantic. The cars behind you would yell, their voices deep and raspy, screaming for you to go forward before the light turned again. You would look at me and mouth that single word; sorry.
Your hand would withdraw.
The glass window separating you from me would return, the stone wall rebuilt the moment you pressed your foot, protected by a pristine white dress shoe smelling of freshly oiled leather, on the accelerator and drove out of my life, back into the mindless life where you would not think for yourself but think only what society told you.
Cars fly by, creating a tornado that tangles my hair even more upon the crown of my head. I return to my post, swaying slightly in the wind, holding my sign, waiting for the light to turn red, waiting for you to come.
Still waiting for Prince Charming. Please help me find cents.