I’d seen her before at the gas station
by the interstate. It was late and the neighborhood is so bad,
but I just didn’t think my truck would make it across town.
She was, um, working
outside and I thought to myself,
“Really? In Jackson, MS?
Wow,” as I quickly walked into the store
looking the other way.
I’d also seen her walking down Clinton, Blvd.
It was certainly odd for a white lady to be in this part of town,
but I would never have guessed.
And so what’s she doing here?
Does she even know what this place is?
Maybe she’s looking for sanctuary. Perhaps she’s hiding
from an angry pimp or boyfriend
She looks awful. I’d say she’s about 50, but then again
it wouldn’t surprise me if she was 39,
with a life like that.
Her hair is dyed with magenta streaks, almost demonic, but she has a childlike demeanor.
She’s reading Pulpit Crimes. I doubt
it’s gonna be what she’s looking for, but then again
you never know.
She asks the librarian to tell her what a word means
“Non-denominational” he says.
I can hear from the copiers.
Should I say something to somebody?
I wonder. Should I warn them?
Can we help?
Dear God… should we…
I’d better just keep quiet.
I mean, I know Jesus spent time with sinners,
but I’d always pictured them more like Oliver Twist
or the animated characters in Fievel, basically good people
who had just been given a hard go at things.
Still nice and articulate though.
But not her. No, she’s the real thing.
As far from Julia Roberts as you can get.
She’s talking again. What’s she saying though?
It’s barely coherent. I’m sure she doesn’t know where she is.
The librarian is packing up.
It’s time for him to clock-out.
“You have a good evenin’ sir.” she says.
That seemed really sincere, I thought.
She was genuinely being nice, and that “sir” on the end
was from the heart.
She knows her place. She knows who she is,
but she goes on living.
In the same neighborhood and everything.
I probably should say something. But what?
What could I say that wouldn’t be condescending?
What could I even say that she’d be conversant with?
What if someone saw me?
I finished with my copies and walked to my books with my head down.
I took the back way out into the lobby and went home.