I thought I had become immune, hardened.
But I cried today,
For your innocence, your lack of comprehension, your subservient attitude—like one who was used to begging and being rejected, oblivious to public humiliation.
You had woken up and—unaware of social norms—you had taken what belonged to another, sleeping on the next cot. You had been busted in the bathroom looking for something in the other’s bag.
Something . . . to fulfil a need to busy yourself, a compulsion more than anything you actually wanted—like a squirrel in slo-mo—just gathering odds and ends to add to your pink translucent garbage bag.
I gently reprimanded you—to avoid further public exposure of your vulnerability—since your stench had already isolated you from the others.
You mumbled something about being disoriented and asked quietly,
“What should I do next time I see something just lying around?”
I explained, and you looked at me as if you were really going to remember to do the right thing the next time.
I knew you wouldn’t; I knew you couldn’t.
You were like an inquiring child, and I felt your pain of living as a child—a dirty, smelly child—in an adult world.
What had happened to you long ago?
It took forever to get you out, away from the scene of the crime, to avert confrontation or a repeat incident. It was barely 50 minutes in hindsight—it felt like hours in my time, but only a few fleeting moments in your long day of ordering your thoughts and belongings.
When I left, you were sitting on the curb organizing your life,
which was spread out before you on the sidewalk on a pink translucent garbage bag.