Candi never expected to find herself in such a situation: she was unkempt, improperly attired, and smelled after spending the fourth night wrapped in a blanket recovered from a dumpster and lying on a sewer grate. It was morning; it was important to be in the move so as not to attract even more attention and get hauled in for vagrancy.
Her first night on the street had come quite by accident. She had left the office late due to a strange series of events: she had made it down to the parking level and realized she’d left an important portfolio for her morning meeting upstairs, at which point she made an abrupt about-face; as she stepped into the elevator, the heel on her favorite pair of Chanel’s broke off; she took off both shoes and went back up in stocking feet; when she came back to the parking level she was greeted by thieves who took her broken shoes and matching Chanel blazer, and her Mount Street business bag along with everything in it; the criminals found her car before she could ring building security and got away. By the time she got through everything with the police and got home, they had been there too; her apartment had been stripped. She managed to get a new driver’s license and flagged her social security number, but it would take at least two months before the bank completely unfroze her assets. She was so stressed from the ordeal that she began making rookie mistakes–a costly situation in the commodities business. She was let go. With no income, she could not keep the apartment and had to return the loaner car the company had provided. Consistently ruthless, she had burned all the bridges with possible sources of help, including those related by blood. She’d managed to rescue a few outfits from the apartment–the thieves had stolen everything with a label, which was practically all she wore–and since it was cold outside at night she wore all the outfits in layers. After a few trips to the soup kitchen at the church, she was approached by an older woman. “Not used to this are ya, sweetheart?” She cackled. “Name’s Martha. What’s yours?” And with that, Candi had a mentor and began learning the ways of the new worlds into which she found herself having to adapt.
She stayed close to Martha, who had been living on the streets for over 10 years. Martha taught Candi which areas were safe to sleep in, where to get meals and clothes. Candi had donated clothing over the years but was appalled by the poor condition and quality of the clothes made available to the homeless; she wondered if what she saw was isolated to the places Martha knew, but soon found out that no matter where they went for clothing giveaways, it was sadly the same in their city. She thought seriously about what she had taken to the donation box and what she had taken to the consignment shop, and it made sense. She became depressed and for about a week did not utter a word. Martha was worried about her but had seen the signs in others. Candi had told her how she came to be on the streets and so Martha knew that the girl would be in trouble without her help.
And then the day came when Candi disappeared. Martha looked everywhere for her and then walked back uptown. After about a week of hanging in the park, Martha saw her: she was all dressed up and had walked out of one of the business high-rise buildings that filled the area. She was with a group of other nattily-attired women; they stepped into the corner bistro and Candi stayed outside to check her phone. Martha went to her. “Hey, kid! You left without sayin’ anything?”
Candi was surprised to see Martha; she’d managed to make her way to the bank one day and found that her assets had been released. She immediately rented a motel room, got cleaned up, bought a second-hand outfit from a consignment shop she frequented, and went job hunting. It was more entry-level than she wanted but it would be a new start. She had even made some friends, who she needed to get back to. “Um, yeah, Martha. Things turned around and I had to move quick, ya know? No hard feelings, yeah?”
“Nah, sweetheart; no hard feelin’s. See ya around.” Martha was glad that Candi had gotten herself back on her feet, but she was sad too at losing a friend. “I don’t wanna keep ya; go meet your friends.” She turned and ambled off into the crowd.
Once inside the bistro, Candi’s work friends were waiting for her with an iced tea. “So, what did that old beggar woman want anyway?” Barb asked as the others laughed. Candi took a deep breath, and began to tell them her story.
Written for today’s Write 4 Ten. Visit here to add yours today.