In a strange turn of events last Thursday morning, I got on the train right after one of the two I take every morning. Freaked out over the perception of how late I was, I muttered to myself trying to figure out if I should run to DD to get some coffee, or simply drink the stuff provided at work – which isn’t horrible, but certainly isn’t awake juice. Deciding to plow on and rush through the doors at work, I was a mere 20 feet away when someone jumped out in front of me smiling and waving hello.
A flash of pale skin, blonde hairand facial features I recognized as feminine, wrapped in a warm winter jacket and talking happily on a cell phone, caused my mind to flash through everyone I knew who could be that happy to see me that early in the morning. The only person I could think of was a woman I worked with some 15 years ago at an accounting firm I had been temping at. She was bright and bubbly, pale and blonde, and the height was about right.
Suddenly, my senses screamed to a halt as my not-quite-awake brain gave me the answer to who it was, as I side stepped with a mock friendly – super sleepy and surprised, “Hello!”
MANDY! THAT’S MANDY! My brain screamed at me, adamant that I not let the moment go.
She was clean! And warm! And on a cell phone. Next to her a man, tallish, thin, with a mustache toted a suitcase. He slowed when she saw me, but she bubbled at me, and then went back to the phone. He asked if she was okay, and she said yes. They went down into the subway and were gone.
My imagination tells me that this was a friend of hers – or maybe a person from one of the shelters, who had come to collect her, who is giving her another shot at life. My imagination won’t let me go to the dark place, where she falls in with another man who will only seek to destroy the little hope that she may have left. And in no way will it let me mull over the idea that she will be exploited.
I know she doesn’t see it, but I have passed her street corner most days in the past month. I don’t know why I hide from her – perhaps it’s that I feel I don’t have anything to say. Perhaps it’s because I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I simply could not help her. But, I was always there – keeping an eye out on her. Not like I could really do anything if she got into trouble. Even if she felt abandoned by me – and I’m not certain that she ever did – it felt good to know where she was day after day.
I didn’t see her that night, and I didn’t pass her corner last night. I won’t know if she’s there – or where she is. But, I know the universe set me on that path to see her once again.
My imagination doesn’t let me cope with the reality that I might never see her again. It doesn’t let me dwell on the idea that the man may not have been safe, and she could end up dead or in a missing persons report. It doesn’t let me really comprehend that between 2008 – 2012 in the US alone there were 72,000+ interactions reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource hotline. And that’s just what was reported. (http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview/human-trafficking-trends)
My imagination is a little glitter coated. I know too much… it has to be. I imagine me in a few years, an out of work student looking for a 25 hour a week job at some temp agency. And she sees me there – having pieced herself back together and remembers when I gave her a chance… and she gives me one too.
I did say it was glitter coated. Painted with years of sitcoms and 80’s feel good movies. “Those twists on the road on which I have wandered.” (What is Eternal, TSO)
My mind is kind of empty now. Not much to think on. Not much to regret. I wish her the best. I hope she doesn’t fall into anything dark and sinister. I hope she never winds up on the streets again. And, I hope upon hope, that she never shows up on one of my missing persons sites. But, if she does – I’ll know she was with a man. About 6’3″, thin, with an olive complexion and a black mustache – thin and in the early stages of growing. I’ll know he had a young and gentle voice, but not without grit. And I’ll know I saw them going into the subway station on 8th and Chestnut.