25 August 2007

Just when you think you've heard it all...

Money does strange things to people, something that was nailed home today in the form of a 200-pound woman named Maria. I was reading on the sidewalk, waiting for a friend, when she lumbered toward me in her wheelchair and showed me a prescription for medicine she needed but couldn't afford to fill. I'm used to the beggars making up stories to get sympathy, someone's brother is dying, another needs milk for her baby. But Maria had a wild card.

She lifted up her skirt and pointed to her legs and I felt my stomach turn.

She has six months, the masses on her legs nothing compared to the tumor growing inside her. Pieces of her black skin color had already been eaten away. We talked for a while, I told her she shared the same name with my mother. I was kneeling down beside her so we could talk at eye level and before she wheeled away she kissed the top of my head and told me not to forget her. I told her I wouldn't, pretty sure the exchange would stay with me for a while. Then she wheeled off and I watched her plead for food from a nearby cafe.They gave her coffee and a few muffins and just as i thought i was taking in this serene moment of humanity, a few seconds later I heard cardboard hit the cement. I looked up as Maria had finished her drink and threw the cup to the sidewalk, lumbering onto her next stop, and I saw the looks on the faces of people who walked by and saw her.

I laughed out loud.

Money does strange things to people, which is probably why my parents made sure I never put much faith into it. Pieces of paper that grant luxuries to some, even if they don't deserve or want them, it also how we face the cards we're dealt, the very state of health we are allowed and in most cases, where we sit in society ... literally ... and sometimes that seat has two wheels. Some of the the people who stopped to throw a few pieces of change at her couldn't even look Maria in the face and I could tell she gave up caring a long time ago. She threw the cup, and to some people on the street that day she probably came off as a thankless begger, but that's not what I saw.

To me, it was Maria telling society to take its system and go to hell.

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