Faces & Places

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“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson It looked like we were both going to get to the entrance to McDonald’s about the same time. I decided to take a step back and let her go first. Only the two shoulder seams kept the tattered man’s tee-shirt she was wearing from falling off. The imprinted American flag’s once-vibrant colors could hardly be seen; faded like the color in her face. Her white lace bra highlighted her rolls of caramel skin for the saucer-eyed spectators to gawk at. It was a sight you might expect to see in a low budget film. I wondered if there was anything in my truck by way of a jacket, or anything else that I could give her to hide her nakedness. My mind began taking screenshots of spectators. A few elderly men looked like they had either been pinched or were getting a back rub from some lovely invisible hand. A couple of older women looked like they were sucking on a lemon. Most folks seemed not to pay much attention. Me? I was all about finding out her story. She began digging through her purse, pulling out coins as she asked the questions about the food prices. A quote made her dig deeper but come up with less. She was at the bottom of her purse, and I would soon learn – her life. Me: “Do you need some change?” A quick glance but no response. She turned her purse upside down and found a few more pennies. Me: “Do you need some money?” Still no response. Me: “Well, are you hungry?” Silence and a reluctant head nod that she was. Me to the McDonalds person: “Give her a $15 gift card.” She still didn’t order anything. Hungry young woman: “Can I sit with you?” Me: “Sure.” As I was eating, she handed back the gift card. Me: “What’s the deal? By the way, do you have a name?” Hungry young woman: “My name is Pris.” Me: “It’s nice to meet you, Pris, I’m Meg. So, tell me why you are hungry but won’t accept the gift card?” Pris: “Because I don’t deserve it.” Me: “Really? Well, I don’t deserve what I’m eating either, but that’s why God made food. Now, go get yourself something to eat.” She returned with a breakfast sandwich, and I figured it was time to ask the hard questions. Me: “Are you using?” Pris: “Yes.” Me: “Heroin would be my best guess. How old are you?” Silence. Pris. “Yes, and I’m 19.”

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