Her name is Miranda.
I didn’t know that, the first time I saw her. I’d just come from the grocery store and had absently stuck some singles into my breast pocket when I cashed out. I don’t know why. Anyway, she was standing beside the road, holding the flap of a cardboard box that had one word written on it in black marker.
My place in line put me just a few feet from her when the light turned red. I put down my side window and waved to her. I gave her the singles. I don’t know why. I never do that. She wished me a blessing and ran back to the curb.
I told Kath about it when she got home. I couldn’t figure out why it was still on my mind. Was it that sign? Was I just tired of the old tried and true?
HOMELESS AND HUNGRY
I guess something about it touched Kath too. The next time she went by the intersection I spoke of, she saw the girl and gave her some cash. After that, I resolved to talk to the girl if I saw her again. My shifts were switching back and forth at work, so my routes were erratic. I kept an eye out for her but hoped perhaps that her prospects had improved.
It was maybe ten days later. I’d started keeping a bottle of water and a high-protein snack in my glove compartment in case I saw her. I parked nearby and approached slowly. She closed the gap when I said hello. She was tiny, coltish, not a day past twenty. I gave her the items and a few singles while asking if she needed anything.
“I just need things to keep warm. I’m living in a tent in the woods.” What in the hell do you say, when living in the woods in a tent is better than whatever you ran away from? “I’m trying to get into shelters, I’m working with S.O.S., but I need to have I.D.” I told her I would see what I could do about some warm items.
When I told my wife I had spoken to the girl on the corner, she asked me, “What is her name?”
Well, shit. I knew I forgot something.
Kath was equal to the task of finding warm stuff, though. She put together some sweatshirts, a sleeping bag and a credit union giveaway meant for outdoor concerts and picnics, a blanket that rolls up and straps easily for carrying. Of course, once engaged, she thought of that winter coat somebody abandoned years ago. Then she picked up some feminine products in a last second burst of inspiration.
When I saw the girl again, I gave her the parcel asking, “What’s your name?”
“Miranda, here’s some warm things for you.”
I watched her closely, looking for signs that she wasn’t who she seemed to be. Would she roll her eyes at a used sweatshirt? Would she see me as a carnival side show sucker because I had come back more than once? I asked again if she needed anything. She looked me in the eye and said, “I just need my I.D. to come. But I guess there’s a problem at the post office.” She assured me that she had a secure address to receive correspondence. I will admit that I drove by later to see if our parcel had been dumped among the trees where I met her. But it wasn’t. She had taken it with her.
A while has passed since then. I pass that corner and look for her. If she is there, I fret about the slow grind of bureaucracy and the toll it must be taking on her. If she is not there, I worry she’s become a victim. The last time I saw her, she was
Her name is Miranda. She lives in a tent in the woods. And I don’t know why.