there she was again.
a lady...well, a woman that I always see in the town of Playas.
she is short, dark skinned, with a mess of dark hair and walks uniquely...i can spot her blocks away, swinging/dragging her right leg along. maybe she had polio as a child, or at some point in her 30-odd years? in any case her leg is good for nothing but bearing weight now, and even that obviously painful...her knee bending backwards and her foot loosely askew. usually dirty and sometimes barely clothed, she is distant, with dishonest eyes, and no smile.
yesterday I got closer to her than I've ever been.
she begs. she's asked me for money from time to time, sometimes while sitting eating seafood at a local restaurant, or just passing on the street corner, though she never gets too close. i'm just another gringa. and playas always has its gringas. i have never given her money, she seeps the typical 'user' persona, but i have felt the same pang of regret each time i have denied her request, wishing to have had in my hand something to offer her.
yesterday i was coming out of the market, the back side, and walking alone towards the public yellow bus which would take me back to camp. i had bought eggs, and bananas.
and there she was again. standing near some other local drunks, looking so forlorn...lost.
my first thought was my bag of bananas, at least i had something this time.
bananas in Ecuador are like.... maple leafs in Canada (if they weren't seasonal and could be eaten, ok it's a lousy comparison but you get me)...a dime a dozen. well, now with the inflation, you are lucky to get 3 bananas for a dime...but that is still cheap, and they are always everywhere. they are no treasure, nothing special ...and in fact, in parts of Ecuador, they are used only as pig food, void of value. nobody goes out of their way to thank you for a banana...it's only worth three pennies.
yesterday that was all i had. i approached her.
now, i can't even remember what i said, but i looked into her eyes. they were kinda glazed over, but she looked back at me and started to mumble something that i couldn't make out. i realized then, that in this particular interaction we weren't going to communicate well. she reached for me, and i reached into my little plastic bag to give her a few finger bananas, "how many could she eat?" a pained expression came over her face, tears spilled down her cheeks and she continued trying to tell me something, but her sounds made little sense. she reached for the skirt of her tattered one piece jumper to lift it and show me, but i stopped her, touched her hand before she exposed herself there in the middle of the street.
i held onto her hand. scarred, with homemade tattoos, it shook and i squeezed it tighter. in her mumbling i made out words like "smoking" (which here probably means some concoction of cheap cocaine), and then she started making heavy pulsing hand movements that i understood better than i wished i had. before i could move back an inch, she touched me inappropriately and just shook her head, angrily. i joined her in the skaking of my head. her tears continued to fall.
in that moment i could only imagine a fraction of what this woman has suffered, time and time again. hard, cheap abuse and abandonment. maybe some of it due to her choices? or maybe not.
i wanted to say "this life is yours, you can choose ..." but i cut myself off in my head. is it really hers? hasn't something else got control of it?"
Jesus name came to mind, "He can make you whole again"...but again i stopped myself, then why doesn't He?!
she squeezed my hand back as i continued holding tightly to hers. i let go to give her a few bananas, and she half-peeled one and discarded it onto the ground. i shook my head for her not to throw the bananas away but to eat them, but she continued to make un-intelligable noises and look at me with such empty hopelessness in her eyes ...
thoughts raced through my head. how to get her out of here? she needs so much help...she's roamed these streets, day and night no doubt for years. i'm just a silly gringa.
and sure enough, while turning to leave her, i heard someone yell from across the street "don't give her anything" ...and i was sure i was the fool in the eyes of those who had watched our interaction.
my eyes welled-up. Jesus WHY DO YOU LEAVE HER HERE?! i wanted to yell as i walked away, leaving her exactly where i desperately wished she weren't. i felt so powerless - my presence was only momentary (and my misealy banana offering, useless). and YOU LORD, have all the power in the world, why not end her misery? it wouldn't be hard, an overdose, a swerving car...is hell really worse than what she is living?
or does heaven hold a place for her?
how i longed for You, Jesus in those moments, wishing i could touch her and heal her, give her You...quick and easy. Just like Peter and John who made the blind man see; 'Not gold or silver, but what i have i give you...' and the beggar who only asked for alms, was freed from his bondage in darkness.
O God, and somehow, i just have bananas?
maybe next time we will be able to talk better...
i hope somehow she'll remember through the fog that we connected.
i would really like to know her name.