Do you have homeless people? Not in the sense that you own them. But people you think of as your own? In IV back in college, we “had” The Pirate, among others, a famous vagabond who was even interviewed and referred to in our campus newspaper. I danced with him once at Earth Day, and the moment captured on film speaks volumes of my college experiment.

Me and my sweet sweet man

I “have” a homeless lady, who I call “Valerie” in my head. We have had a million conversations, and we’ve never asked each other’s names. Now I think we’re “past that point,” and we are too embarrassed to ask. She lives on Clayton Rd., with a maroon beanie and a suntan, and a can of Steel Reserve by 9am everyday. I’ve seen her at all hours of day and night, and I think she is the happiest person there ever was. I take walks all over the neighborhood, and she never fails to comment on what I’m wearing, how much I walk, ask how I am, mention the beautiful weather we’re having. We’ve had discussions about physical education in schools, obesity in America, and how she’ll “never own a car, they can’t make it! So expensive, damn cars! I like it out here! I’ll never own a car!”

Ironically, she sleeps at a carwash every night.

She sits at the crosswalk with her piles of things, like a crosswalk guard at elementary schools, with a “hows it going?” to everyone who passes. I think about bringing her food, or a book, or a blanket. I’m just never sure what she might need, and scared she will get mad at me.

Sometimes I don’t see her for a few days, and I go into a panic. Is she okay? Is she cold? Where does she go potty? Today I saw her talking on a cell phone, and that threw me for a loop.

She has really pretty blue eyes, and a raspy voice that comes out of chapped lips stretched over beautifully white teeth, and I wonder where her family is. I wonder why she’s on the streets. I know not all homeless (or “houseless,” I can hear my friend Kelly Burns correcting me now :) ) people are innocent victims, but I know a lot are mentally ill, or facing addictions beyond their control, or veterans. Estimates say there might be as many as three million homeless people sleeping on streets right now.

…I’m feeling very sensitive lately. As I embark on Day 2 of the $100 Dare… what is Valerie eating? How does she get food? What can I do what should I do. She’s so nice to me.

Here’s a song for Valerie:

She yells,
“If you were homeless, sure as hell you’d be drunk
Or high or trying to get there or begging for junk
When the people don’t want you they just throw you money for beer”
Her name was November she went by Autumn or Fall
It was seven long years since the Autumn when all
Of her nightmares grew fingers
And all of her dreams grew tears

She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
And she’s somebody’s baby still

She screams,
“Well if you’ve never gone it alone
Well then go ahead, you better throw the first stone”
You got one lonely stoner waiting to bring to her knees
She dreams about Heaven, remembering hell
As the nightmare she visits and knows all too well
Every now and again
When she’s sober she brushes her teeth

She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
And she’s somebody’s baby still

Today was her birthday, strangely enough
When the cops found her body at the foot of the bluff
The anonymous caller this morning tipped off the police
They got her ID from the dental remains
The same fillings intact, the same nicotine stains
The birth and the death were both over
With no one to grieve

She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
And she’s somebody’s baby still
She’s somebody’s baby still

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