January 18th, 2011

love a nerd

LJ Idol - Icarus

I couldn't tell you how old she is. I wouldn't even be able to guess. I would think probably mid-forties to mid-fifties, but since she's homeless and spends all her time out in the hot Tucson sunshine, standing on the corner of Palo Verde and Benson Highway, giving you a copy of the Arizona Daily Star if you give her at least fifty cents or a dollar on the weekends.

She knows me.

When I drive by on Sundays after work, she smiles and waves. Usually I have a little change - maybe a gold Sacajawea dollar from the change machine or maybe an actual dollar bill buried in the unused ashtray in my car. As I go past Brooklyn's, I can see if she's there, and I start getting whatever spare change I have for her ready so I can hand it to her at the stoplight.

"Hey, girl!" I hear her holler as I pull up, my windows rolled down to enjoy the breeze. "How you doing?"

"Great, off work!" I tell her, and hand her about seventy-five cents.

"Thank you!" she calls as I round the corner and start the drive down Alvernon, on my way home before church. She goes back to sit on her upside-down Dairy Glen milk carton, to protect the stack of papers she has, to smile and wave to others who just drive by and to share "God bless you's" with the people who flip change out their windows at her.

I'm quite fond of her - she is always very friendly when she sees me drive past - in retrospect, probably because I usually give her money - but what I like is that she isn't pushy. If I don't have any money, she doesn't harass me, she smiles and waves. And I smile and wave back.

Yesterday, that easy camraderie was destroyed.

"Hey, girl!" she calls as I pull into the parking lot at the Wendy's right around the corner from work, my windows rolled down, the wind blowing through my hair. When she sees me start to go through the drive-through, she hurries over from where she's crouched near the adjoined Chevron station having a cigarette and rushes over to my car.

"Thank you for choosing Wendy's, I'll be right with you," the voice blares out of the speaker.

"No problem," I answer.

She clearly thinks that I have already ordered my lunch, because she starts talking. So does the girl attempting to take my order. "A big bacon deluxe and a large iced tea, unsweetened, with lemon," I tell her.

"Can you give me a ride?" she asks. "I need to get back home. To Palo Verde and Benson Highway. Please?"

"Sorry, did you say a number five?" asks the girl at the drive through. "I'll have your total for you at the second window."

"Please?" she asks me again, the tinge of desperation in her tone.

I look at the brightly colored pictures of the food - their new and improved French fries now with sea salt! The number seven, the crispy chicken club combo, my favorite. Salads, baked potatoes, chili, ninety-nine cent spicy chicken nuggets. Something called a Frosty-Chino. Why couldn't she have just asked me for lunch? I would have happily bought her a cheeseburger.

I only have a half hour lunch. I have to get back to work - granted, it is just right around the corner - eat my burger, finish my iced tea, and get back on the phones again in twenty five minutes.

"I'm sorry," I tell her. "I wish I could, but I only have half an hour and I really am going to need to get back to work. I just don't have the time."

I see her face collapse as spark in her eyes fades like a freshly snuffed flame. I'm seeing her wings melt and feeling her pain as she falls back to earth, right in front of me.

I put my car into drive, collect my food, and drive back to work.

I am the sun.