She brings me a rose
She came in with a striped coral rose, rain soaked. She said it was from a seemingly dead rosebush on a back street of the town where an old building burnt to the ground in the summer. There's a bud still left, she said, but she thought she'd bring me the open rose, for pretty.
I put it in the old greeny-purple medicine bottle dug from the desert sands some years ago by a crusty old traveler who brought it in thanks for the time I called for medical help for him, as he lay in a field unable to move. It does look pretty, the rose in the green bottle, near some photos of people I love and critters long since vanished from my life.
She approved. She goes by her initial, D., and she looks as if she stepped from the frame of a PreRaphaelite painting: red-orange electrically curling hair, pale skin, a determined but wistful set to her expression.
She is 22. For some weeks, maybe a couple months, she has quietly come and sat outside, in a little nest of her own making, reading books from our free book display. Sometimes she has discussed her reading with me, sometimes she has simply smiled and nodded.
Once she asked for food, not having eaten in a few days. I told her I always have fruit, the fruit is always available, she need never ask.
She tidied the porch a few times; she likes to remove the falling leaves from the top of the little fish tub so that the water doesn't get clouded and she does seem to know a little about fish, a little more than I do.
Like many of the travelers she has made a fast friend in Champ the pitbull, who whines with joy when he sees her, and gazes with great love into her pretty eyes.
She lives beside a fence, in a vacant lot, out of the view of people in houses. She has a small tarp, a good sleeping bag, a couple changes of clothing.
Three days ago she told me her baby will be born in January. She smiled, saying the due date is the birthday of her mother, who is living in Seattle, which is where her dad also lives, which is far away. I haven't asked if these nice people know she is pregnant; she left home when she turned 16, and I haven't asked why.
With the travelers you don't ask a lot of questions, you don't start a lot of sentences with "you should..." What you do is offer a little space, an open heart, time to talk if talking is needed. An endless bowl of fruit. Clean socks. Connections, if wanted, to a clinic, to public health, to whatever shreds of resources might be out there. And books.
She came indoors today for most of the day--I told her yesterday that she should always feel welcome, she could sit by the fire and read, she need not do or say anything, she'd be out of the rain. I was glad to see her, because the storms began last night, and I couldn't sleep, knowing that she was by her fence, under her fragile tarp, probably awake and wet, feeling her child move and turn.
And not only her, but little Rhea, about the same amount along in her pregnancy. She was just taken to the emergency room after her boyfriend beat her in the rain, in the storm, in their camp. He's not a bad guy; he is trying so hard, he has come to me for help and advice and focus--but the rage comes on, and this frail blonde child I saw growing up is now battered and broken and he has been arrested.
There are times I cannot bear the weight of it all, the children in the ditches and beneath the bridges, the pain, the cycles of hopeless violence. But there must be a way.
Meanwhile, it is a beautiful rose. It is glowing, perfect, unfolding. A gift of love.
(the rose photo comes from someone in Switzerland called Tambako the Jaguar)