A Story by riskrapper

counting souls in a homeless census


“I’m not sure if night is ending or day is beginning.  What time is it?”

She asked as she opened the door for us.

“Its about 2:30” I answered.

She was pacing about slightly bobbing her head as she spoke.

“I am sorry to disturb you beloved.  We are doing a homeless census, may we ask you some questions?”

“I don’t want to be put away”  she said.  “I have to be outside.”

“We’re not here to hurt you.  We’re here to help.””

She didn't remember where she was from and was uncertain why it mattered.

She knew she wanted to leave Paterson but was unsure where she wanted to go.

She kept her eye on the McDonald’s across Market Street.  As long as the light was on, she knew it was still nighttime and she would have a place to go if the cops forced her out of this evenings lodging in the ATM vestibule. She could also get something to eat. She said she was hungry.  

She asked me what time it was.  I told her it was about 2:30 in the morning.  She earnestly wants to know what time it is.  She doesn’t want the people going to work to see her sleeping in the Wells Fargo foyer. She said it's embarrassing.

Her papers were scattered on the floor.

She had one shoe on and one shoe off.  A white sock gloved an indeterminate number of other sock layers warming her shoeless left foot, sufficient protection from the balmy mist of this late January evening.  Her other shoe lay on its side in the corner.

Her white, black and yellow plastic grocery bags filled with all her worldly possessions lay atop the shelf housing bank deposit slips neatly stacked in cubbyholes.

A woolen hat circled her head.  Her tiny face shone through the gray skull cap tightly tied under her soft chin.

She looked to be in her 50’s.  She spoke in a pale uneven tempo.  Her voice was quiet and anxious. Her eyes were clear.  Her pursed mouth was  bracketed by a trinity of long chocolate crescent winkles. The sounds from her mouth were gently angelic and the kindness of her gentle smile was filled with demure submissiveness.

She swaddled herself in multiple layers of coats and trousers.  It bulked up her tiny frame.  Her outermost cloak was a gray trench coat secured with a tightly wrapped knotted cloth belt.  The coat thoroughly soiled by a life of sleeping rough.  The fabric boasted a consistency worthy of an Abercrombie and Fitch oil finished coat.  The bulk of her layers rounded the frame of her shoulders.  She resembled a small granite headstone.

We asked her name.  She was reluctant to tell us. 

“I don’t like my name”.

We gently coaxed her.

“Carmen” she whispered.

“That is a beautiful name.  It is the name of the most beautiful song ever written.” I answered.

“I know.  I’m gonna change my name someday.” she answered.  “I never liked it.”

Ally finished taking the survey.  

We gave Carmen a blanket, gloves, a hat.  Some hot cocoa, two sandwiches and a chocolate bar. We implored her to visit our community pantry when it opened in the morning for cloths, referrals and food.  She was very grateful; but I don’t think she’ll ever make her way there.

I gave her my phone number; but I don’t think she’ll call.

“You are not forgotten beloved.  You are deeply loved.  Please remember that.”

“I know” the dainty caged bird cooed through a submissive smile.  

“What time is it?”

I wondered how to count a homeless soul wishing to remain unseen?


© 2013 riskrapper

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great write..................... enjoyably read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!keep writing

Posted 11 Years Ago

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Added on January 31, 2013
Last Updated on February 1, 2013
Tags: homelessness, winter, Paterson, shelter