Thursday, March 31, 2011

If you speak to her

She sits at a corner table, her solitude emphasized by the accoutrements that form an invisible wall around her: a single coffee cup with dregs sitting idly at the bottom, a mobile phone that has remained silent the entire time she has been sitting there, a drab brown bag slung around an unoccupied chair adjacent to hers, a leather-bound notebook opened to a blank page. Her hand is poised to write, but her eyes stare absently at the chaos outside the window.

If you speak to her, she will hear, not your words, but your pity. She will hear the hundred other voices that have  whispered harsh words behind her back. The voices that have made promises and broken them. Those that spat venom veiled in gracious words.

If you catch her eye, she will see, not your compassion, but your sympathy. And it will offend her. It took her a lifetime to inure and protect herself from cruelty. To feel nothing. Kindness is almost alien, and demonstration of it will confuse her.

You have to make her understand.

You walk towards her and, before the sound of your footsteps reaches her, she gets up and walks away.

Out into the street, unchallenged.

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