Lightning flashes. Rain hits my window, creating rivulets that slide down slow as molasses.
I’m safe in my room. My hotel room. My own bathroom in the back, my own king-sized bed in the front facing the window. I turn off the TV and my bedside table lamp to make it lighter outside, but sky blue sheer curtains interrupt my view slightly. The air conditioner hums to remind me I can’t open my window to smell the rain.
I’m under the covers, picking at the acne between my eyebrows and trying to string together the web of raindrops on my window to make something work. Anything work.
My parents and brothers have roofs over their heads, even though it isn’t raining where any of them are right now. There’s just one storm cloud over the palace –– yes, palace –– I call “home.”
I can’t help but think about the man with the sign. He stands at several intersections around here. Yellow light.
I have two bicycles, a car and a family that loves me, but no sir, I cannot spare any change.
I’m too busy buying myself smoothies, that extra bicycle, lunch and $100 worth of clothing I don’t even need. I have enough articles of clothing to last me a laundry-less month, for Christ’s sake, not to mention a backup computer just in case the one in my lap fails right now. And then a smartphone when both fail. (They won’t.)
But I won’t even look or read your sign when I pull up right next to you at that red light. There’s a $20 bill in my wallet that I don’t need, but it sure will come in handy when I want an overpriced sandwich later. Or panini. Or salted caramel ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop in town (that I’ve already been to seven times since moving back here five weeks ago). Whatever.
I’ll bop around to Katy Perry’s newest CD on one of the four iPods I own and pretend to be really interested in the license plate on the car in front of me. But I’m not.
My face gets hot, my cheeks turn red. I try to look at you using my peripherals. I want you to notice the rough condition the paint on my car’s hood is in. I want you to know that I have bills to pay, tuition to scramble around for and that I work hard for my money.
I tuck a lock of hair I paid $120 to get cut, colored and styled behind my diamond-earringed ear.
My parents don’t give me money; I provide for myself… but I can’t help but wonder who was supposed to provide for you.
You, bearded, homeless; swallowing enough pride to beg, beg for help. Admitting you need it. Not caring about the judgments and the little redheaded bitch in her Volkswagen Bug who drives by you nearly every. Single. Day.
I’m safe in my room. My hotel room. My own bathroom in the back, my own king-sized bed in the front facing the window. But I wonder where you are tonight and hope you’re dry. I hope you’re safe. I hope I get the gall to hold out a couple dollars or even a coffee. Get everyone to do it. Start a chain reaction with the BMWs, Cadillacs and Audis around me.
But for now I’m just ashamed of myself. Ashamed of my ignorance. Ashamed because you deserve some respect, just like everyone else.