He tried his best to avoid eye contact, hoping maybe if he didn’t see her then maybe she didn’t exist. Just maybe he could avoid the somber exchange that was coming. He could avoid the awkward explanation he was sure to receive, the grand story that sets her apart from all the many vagrants he’d seen that day.
15 paces away… 10 paces away… She stops and asks someone for money…
“I should move further down the platform” he thought to himself, “buy myself a little more time because the metro should be here soon.” Somewhere along the way he knew he had grown cynical and desensitized. He understood that most people who end up on the street weren’t necessarily lazy and unwilling to work, but his image of society’s most viewed and yet most forgotten segment had been cured by time. Furthermore just like everyone else on the platform he had already type-casted her and he knew her lines better than she did.
3 paces away… 2… 1… “Excuse me sir, I’m $37.50 short for my ticket to…”
As he lifted off his headphones in an attempt to feign interest, he started to analyze her. A walking Rorschach test, everything about her to him had a prepackaged societal based explanation . Her torn clothes… probably because she spends all her money on drugs. Her bad smell bad… probably homeless and hasn’t showered. Her tattoos… probably can’t hold a job. Her piercings… probably has a communicable disease.
Her eyes… Her eyes… Her eyes… He was stumped, he didn’t have a preconceived response. In her eye he found an unsolicited connection, an unsuspected innocence. Her humanity wasn’t on the checklist of things he used when judging her. Yet staring back at him were they eyes of a daughter, a sister, a friend. There was no cry for help in the blue ocean of her soul that seemed to go on forever, there was just the acknowledgment of disappointment she knew was coming and this… this broke his heart. He saw a lack of hope, a lack of belief that someone would take a chance on her, a lack of optimism that people would be able see past her appearance and this was something he could identify with.
In that moment he stopped looking at a her as one of the many and saw her as one of one. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, and said “It’s going to be a long journey, but I hope you eventually get where you need to go.”