She sits on the pavement every morning watching cars for fifty-cent tips, or a loose cigarette. By lunchtime, usually, the fifty cent handouts have added up to enough to buy her a bottle of something strong enough to make her belligerently curse at passersby, until she lies sprawled in a shop doorway and the other vagrants drag her away. She tells me she spends her nights in the foyer of the Post Office, summer and winter.

I asked her today if I could take her picture, and should I print one for her; was there someone she’d like me to send it to. No Merrem, these tsotsis is my people now.

She’s lost count of the number of times she’s been beaten and raped, her nose appears to be septic; a man who was too jealous bit the tip off, last winter.

When I ask her how old she is, she shrugs and says twenty nine; she tells me she came from Port Elizabeth when she was eighteen, she was pretty and wanted to get grand, she dreamed of finding a job in a clothes shop: Smart Merrem, like John Orrs. I seen the ladies wearing smart hats and gloves there. I’d put her closer to my side of forty, but who knows?

I leave her with a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk and the R22-plus-change I have in my pocket, I perpetuate the cycle of her miserable days. I keep the newspaper I bought for myself, I doubt that she minds. She beams as though she’s hit the jackpot.

When I get home, I scrub my hands where they brushed against hers as I handed her the money, I use vanilla soap and I can smell the scent of it here at my desk. I can’t get Monica out of my mind.

Someone’s little girl, once.

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53 Comments Add yours

  1. deepercolors says:

    God. Theer’s another poem on my poetry page –

    (It’s supposed to be center justified so it looks [kind of] like an angel.But it list the formatting when I cut an pasted here.)

    Arms of the Angel

    by Carolyn Donnell

    In the arms of the angel

    a line from a song

    The hum of the music

    rises to my tongue

    whenever I see


    bent ladies, wobbly

    walkers crossing

    at lights

    insufficient time to catch the train

    closed doors don’t wait, schedules to keep.

    Guy in the wheelchair. Unwashed,feeble, maneuvering down

    Main Street. To where?

    Veteran of wars

    sent to kill

    returned home

    to die untended.

    Mothers with children

    no home to keep.

    Bankers’ golden balloon.

    Others, no place to sleep.

    Where are the families,

    sons, daughters or friends?

    Church and charity they say

    but too often they really pray,

    “Thank you God, I’m not like them.”

    Where is the angel for all of these?

    Are angels that selective and few?

    In the arms of the Angel.

    Do you have one?

    Lucky you.


    written 2009 after watching the homeless on North First in San Jose

    Listen to Sarah McLachlan’s Angel

    1. Jamie Dedes says:

      Very nice, deepercolor.

  2. deepercolors says:

    I wish I could type, but you get the message….

    1. theonlycin says:

      It’s a beautiful poem, so sad.

  3. people who fall out of the normal for society make me so sad and also afraid, what stops me falling out too?

    1. theonlycin says:

      One moment to the next Sidey, my gran used to say.

  4. adeeyoyo says:

    It could so easily happen to any of us…

    1. theonlycin says:

      The Salvation Army motto is:
      There but for the grace of God go I.

  5. deepercolors says:

    Don’t remind me . I was closer than I like to think about 40 years ago and I seem to be sinking back to those days again. Nothing at all compared to what that lady has been through. How does the spirit survive something like that anyway?

  6. halfp1nt says:

    Sad, Cin; and it can so easily happen to anyone.

  7. Krokodil says:

    There but for fortune goes you and I…

    1. theonlycin says:

      Dankie vir die inloer Krok 🙂

  8. Artswebshow says:

    this is such an interesting post.
    We sometimes forget that these people have had the same experiences as the rest of us.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Indeed we forget too often.

  9. granny1947 says:

    I got goose bumps AGAIN!!!
    STILL can’t do anything on Facebook…this is starting to pee me off!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Did you try to log off and restart your PC?

  10. Thanks, Cindy. It makes you think… and wonder.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, profoundly sad.

  11. slpmartin says:

    My dear Cindy…right now I have tears in my eyes…and feeling of such deep pain for the lives wasted..I shall revisit my thoughts of her when my mind clears from the veil of sadness that I have right now.

  12. buttercup600 says:

    :):):) I hear you my friend 🙂 xx

  13. suzicate says:

    This is so sad. She seems to have had such potential and her spirit was broken and her body abused, breaks my heart.

    1. theonlycin says:

      And, sadly, I didn’t find her yesterday.

  14. Liane says:

    Just imagine… that is ‘normal’ to her… How sad is that? Yes, most certainly not what (I believe) anyone dream about when they’re a little girl. I wonder what she was like when she was 18… did she notice the deterioration? Was she a fighter once who have lost hope…? Or did she think that she had no choice to begin with… When she is gone, at least one person will miss her… I have so much to be grateful for! And people like her keep me mindful of that fact!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Really worries me to think she didn’t survive this last, harsh winter.

  15. Jamie Dedes says:

    Painful. Too, too many like this all over the word. Blessings to you and to her …

    1. theonlycin says:

      I spoke to the other homeless people in the area; they don’t know where she is, but say that they would have gotten word if anything bad had happened to her, that she’s probably just moved along to another spot.

  16. Naomi says:

    What a profound, powerful post, Cin. I’m so glad I caught it on the repost. Such an eloquent portrayal of life on these streets. Please let us know if you hear what happened to Monica.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Naomi, see my comment to Jamie above.

  17. Lyndatjie says:

    People like Monica lose their humanity when the human race accepts their plight as a normal logical conclusion to life. We all have our Monicas and the day we stop noticing them, we will become as heartless as this world in which we live.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Excellent comment Lyndatjie.

  18. stilekke says:

    Cin, you`re such a stunning person……

    1. theonlycin says:

      *blush* Thanks stilekke 🙂

  19. Kavita says:

    That’s very sweet of you, Cindy… letting her know that she too is human after all…
    Alas, the Monicas in this world are too many… 😦 Such a saddening state this place is coming to!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes Kavita, very sad.

  20. klrs09 says:

    I hope you find her

    1. theonlycin says:

      Maybe I will, someday 😦

  21. lifeinarecipe says:

    Touching post. It is a shame that there are people out there who have to suffer such fates. Let us hope that we never get to the point where others suffering does not move us.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Oh yes, Cindy, that must never happen.

  22. In Boston, I once saw a young homeless boy, who didn’t look any older than my little brother (14 yrs). I don’t know how old he actually was…

    He was living in the mud underneath an old tractor trailer truck.

    Giving him some food and hot cocoa was all we could do, but it made me feel so helpless. I kept thinking, “what if it WAS my little brother?”

  23. tragic story and fabulous writing. great job.

  24. Lawrence C says:

    Thank you for having the strength to write this

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you for reading, Lawrence.

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