Every day on my way to school I drive down this road, and even at 7:30 in the morning I see you. And every day you’re here on my way home. I don’t know you; I never will, nor ever want to. Yet I see you, tiny, in rags with long dark hair matted around your face.You limp on crutches, and as you come to tap on my window, we make eye contact again. The sticky heat settles on your dark skin, tiny beads of perspiration on your forehead.
Early in the morning you sit on the edge of the road, and sometimes you are sleeping. As my car rushes past the traffic lights where you lie, I can see the flies around your fragile figure, your protruded ribs diminished in comparison to your swollen belly. Nevertheless, as soon as we pass you, the horrific scene which is your forever, is one I immediately forget.
Even when I drive past on weekends, you still sit on the faded yellow and black painted curb. You are the foreground to a Mandal landscape. Capacious Bombay dwarfs you and whilst you live in silence amongst the decaying chalky brown grass, sound and light surround you: crying babies, honking cars, barking stray dogs, and despite the dominance of dusty grey there are green palm trees and pallid pink painted walls.
You wouldn’t ever recognise me, and I don’t ever spend any time thinking about you.
We are the same age. We live in the same city. Yet our lives will never be the same.
Whenever you see me I am encased in my world of affluence, and as you peer through the tinted windows of my new air conditioned car, you may hear the serene silence settle on the leather seats. I go from the marble clad floors of my apartment, to a school with bodyguards and billionaires. But you, you live on the street. You are forced to beg. You are owned. Whilst I live in a world where I can have a plan for my future, your future holds no certainty, no choice. You are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, and are only one in the countless before you and countless after you.
And I know this, as do so many others who shake their heads at you when you gaze up with your big eyes and flushed dark diaphoretic skin. You urge people on, willing them to just give you something, even though just ‘something’ won’t make him happy. Yet people refuse to match your stare, as they know where their money would be going, and they get a choice whether to be a part of it. But you didn’t. You’re one of the beggar girls, and will always be.
I see you every day. I never question why you’re there, or whether you can leave. But today you aren’t here. And I’m wondering where you are as I wait at the traffic lights, and a man without any legs looks up at me. I’m realising that this may not be the first time you’re not here this week, but I hadn’t noticed when you were last there, because you always were. I suppose I know what will have happened to you. I know you’re never going to be by the traffic lights again. The thing is, I won’t spend any time thinking about it, because you’re just one of the beggars on the street by the traffic lights. You’re just one the nameless thousands who are forgotten by almost everyone as soon as you gaze up into their eyes.