The Watching Girl

The Watching Girl

A Story by Kaitlin Shea

There is a girl. She’s standing on an overpass above a busy city. Heavy traffic, crowded streets, people pushing their way down the sidewalk.

            The girl is tiny. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Dark smile.

            Long hair. Bare feet. Dirty face.

            The wind blows her hair but she wishes it were fresh and cool. Instead, it’s smoggy and warm. A smile melts off her face as she watches the people in the streets--easily angered and much too cursory in their mindless actions. The streetlights flicker on at odd intervals, providing a single spotlight of gloom every ten feet that highlights the melancholy beneath them. Its purpose is served as people scurry underneath them like ants under a magnifying glass, barely allowing the revealing light to rest on them for more than a couple of seconds. The girl, a mere observer in this twisted show of tainted life, doesn’t need a streetlight to amplify the flaws in these people’s lives. They are as obvious as a funeral procession taking up the whole highway.

            A prude middle-aged woman stands waiting at a cross-walk, her arms folded across her chest and her eyes squinted in a way that seems too natural--as if habit has scarred her face that way forever. The light is long and horns are blaring and dull yellow taxi-cabs stain the streets as if there is anything still clean enough to stain. She waits impatiently, her foot tapping methodically in pointy pink heels, scraping the dirty tar of the streets. Her lips pursed, her face scrunched, she momentarily snaps out of her self-centered universe and glances around her, clearly searching for nothing in particular. The beady eyes of such an uppity woman skim across too many faces to count, not even pausing to note a single one of their lives. They might as well not be living if they don’t affect her. She clucks her tongue and shakes her head absently, another habit acted upon so long it has become unbreakable. A young boy, his pants too low and his stance too slouched, gains a mere second of her attention and she watches him with the judgment common to all of today’s societies. Her judgment isn’t based on feeling though, but on something called religion. Called God. Called the right way, as if there is only one.

            A couple attracts her attention next.  But not the ordinary, accepted type of couple.  The type of couple that even today, even when women have gained rights and slavery has become illegal, are frowned upon by the so called “conservative” lives in our world.  The two men hold hands, walking and grinning and oblivious to the scowls of the woman.  The wrinkles between her eyes deepen.  They are going to hell, she thinks reflexively, and still she watches in the same dismay that has already characterized her within the minute the dark haired, dark eyed, dark smiled girl has been watching.  The watching girl wonders why the two men holding hands bother the woman so much.  Why do two, happy, blissful people bother her so much?  And why doesn’t the homeless, homely boy standing in the middle of the street begging for money bother her more?  Doesn’t she realize that if her god wanted everyone to be the same, he wouldn’t have made everyone so different?

            A horn blares extra loudly and the pink-shoed woman jumps out of her judgmental daze, noting the flashing WALK sign and the people yelling out of their cars at her.  She clucks her tongue at their impatience, as if she would’ve done anything different.

On the way across the crosswalk, the woman passes a boy. He’s tall, hunched forward, and he glares at the ground as he walks as if it holds more importance than anything else on the streets.  And it does, to him at least.  The watching girl can see it in his gaunt face and in his hollow eyes.  She can see it in the way he walks, slouched and with his hood up in attempt to block out the rest of the world.  She can see it in the way when a siren sounds in the distant, he freezes and looks up at the sky as if God himself has called him.  And then, she can see it in the way his eyes dart back and forth before he starts walking again, oblivious to the honking horns and the busy streets and the clucking woman and the homeless child and the revealing street lights.  He walks as if he is not of this earth because he isn’t as long as he lives the way he does--drugs and smoke block out the rest of the world better than a hood can.  But what if you’re not prepared for the world they create?  His whole life is a dream; a nightmare, but it’s all he’s got.

How come judgmental woman’s god couldn’t save him? He doesn’t know what God is or what religion means or that there could be something more after all the suffering ends. Will the suffering ever end?

The boy with the cadaverous face and the lost eyes bumps into a man in a suit before stumbling and deciding to slide down for a seat against a wall. The man in the suit, with the briefcase, and the clean-shaven face frowns and brushes his shirt off, as if the lost-ness of the boy is tactile and can stick to him. He shakes his head, stares down at the boy who has gone completely to pieces, and turns to walk away. What a pity, what a pity. But the thought is fleeting, a blip in the day as if he hasn’t just seen another life wasted away. No, he sees it every day and lives have ceased to mean much more than a dollar figure anymore. He is a lawyer, but not the kind that saves the innocent; the kind that defends the guilty. He draws out his phone and takes on a business posture, plugging his non-telephone ear with his finger. He laughs at something over the city street noises but his thoughts are unmistakable across his face. Another murder, another robbery, another guilty person to defend. Another crime to go unpunished in return for green paper; the key to the whole world. It doesn’t matter if lives are slipping away by the second, as long as it isn’t his life.

Why is it, the watching girl wonders, that people are so selfish? How can one person have all the material things in the world and still see his neighbor and think, I want that? Enough is never enough and a buck is never just a buck.

The briefcase man snaps his phone shut, his face receding back to serious as if there is a need to erase any traces of a happy moment in life. Long faces are meant to put up a protective front but all they serve as is entrapments. He starts to pace, back and forth and in between the busy people of the streets. And he paces like that until he’s lost in the crowd; he’s just as lost as the brain-dead drug-abuser. The difference is, he will never know.

Once again, the homeless child’s face comes into view"the only stationary figure in the active night-dampened streets. He makes no attempt at a smile, and his eyes are emptier than even the blindest man’s eyes could ever reach--a depth that few can even comprehend. He’s dirty, untouchable, ugly, and no more significant than a sewer rat scrambling around the city’s feet. More of an annoyance really, a blemish in the shallow beauty of a city at night. The pink-shoed woman wouldn’t have even considered opening her expensive pocket book to award the poor creature a few miserly cents. She’d have rather he hid in the darkling shadows of looming buildings than have had him stand where he did, further building the dirt in the streets.

He stares through the immense crowds, holding out his hands in a desolate attempt to find a giving hand; knowing better, that there are none. He chose this fate, he knows, but is begging better than death? Or is he only begging for death by now, wishing and praying that God will save him? Or the devil will kill him, which ever ends the pain. Leaving one evil, abuse and evanescent family love, for another, an anathema of physical pain and insatiable hunger. He doesn’t know which is worse; doesn’t understand why he has to choose either of them. If only anybody cared.

 The watching girl thinks the scene is deeply unsettling and darkly amusing. Why all the pain and self-centered hate?

To some, the city is beautiful, even more so at night. Pitch black sky with blanketed stars. Tall sky-risers, almost touching the heavens but coming back down again--pushing God away. Lifting heaven further and further away from the filth of the city, where God can remain pure.

The watching girl starts to turn away, sick of the scene; sick of everyone else’s unhappiness dragging the world down and digging a hole closer to Hell. But something--someone"catches her eye before she can hide her eyes from the sights of the city. A girl. Tall. Young. Beautiful. Maybe just like everybody else in the city--hasty and unconcerned with the nature of others. Maybe even worse. But maybe not. The watching girl, with nothing better to do, stays for a minute and continues to watch the dismal story of life continue to unfold.

She watches the girl intently, looking for something she failed to recognize in the others. Looking for hope. Looking for a sign that hope is still alive; out there somewhere. The beautiful young girl smiles, holds the door open for longer than anyone else would’ve. She greets the people coming out as if each of them means something important to her.

She walks down the street. She passes the happy couple, with the same sex chromosomes, and smiles at them--a genuine happiness. See? Love comes in all forms. And it’s beautiful every way.

She continues on and she sees the boy. The one drowning in drugs and life. She hesitates, bends down so that she’s next to him. And even though he doesn’t register her squatting beside him, she says something to him and stands up and leaves without looking back. He turns his head and watches her go, a curious expression on his face.

She walks to the boy standing in the middle of the sidewalk. The filthy boy"untouchable and unlovable. She slips some money into his hat, the one he uses to beg with. But before she leaves, she kisses his forehead and says something that looks a lot like: something better is coming

She disregards all of the world’s prejudgments and just as she comes to a stop in front of the crosswalk the pink-shoed woman had stood at, she looks up at the girl on the overpass. A smile stretches out across her face. And she waves.

© 2010 Kaitlin Shea

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For some of my university program's, we're required to read numerous short stories and poems that are written in "big name" textbooks. And reading this, I can honestly say that this is far better than any of those single stories I've read in class. You have a true talent that you should be proud of and this story is absolutely stunning. Keep up the great work!

Posted 13 Years Ago

Wow. That's absolutely fantastic. You've got some lines in there that are true poetry, and your descriptions are brilliant.


Posted 13 Years Ago

This almost brought tears to my eyes.
Never before have I read such a beautiful an accurate portrayal of a day in a big city.
You have a true gift.

Posted 13 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on January 2, 2010
Last Updated on February 26, 2010
Tags: City, Acceptance


Kaitlin Shea
Kaitlin Shea


I'm Kaitlin. I love to write almost anything, but "About Me" sections are the exception. Okay, let's see. The favorite authors would be George Orwell, John Green, and Ellen Hopkins. I also have .. more..


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