The beggar (or charity)

by 90daysoryearstogettingpublished

This was my first or second writing assignment- and i think it shows in my writing, which seems a little stilted and green. These were the instructions:
(ps- an obsession didn’t quite come to mind, so I did the ‘writerly’ thing and embellished. A lot. 🙂 )

Our personal obsessions can be responsible for
producing the strongest
writerly material in us. Think about an event in your life, one in the
past ten years, that continues to haunt you though it’s safely distant
in the past. Or–if you prefer–think of a “cheerier” kind of
obsession, your love for your child, perhaps. Create an entire scene
based on this obsession, using dialogue, if you wish, and external
details (don’t stay “trapped in your head” but actively try to render
the physical world of the event). Try to keep your exercise at 750
words or fewer.

She would not take my money. I to this day, cannot fathom why it
bothered me as much as it did. True, it was slightly embarrassing, but
hardly the end of the world, as I have told myself over and over again. I will forever associate this encounter with the work of one prominent author I once read, – titled I think, “The Beggars Strike” – the picture on the cover was of a hand stretched, palm facing downwards, over a beggar’s bowl. It had always seemed somber and
chilling to me- why would a beggar refuse money, their very raison d’être for getting up in the morning?

I had seen her on several occasions in the winter, huddled on the
other side of the street, in the covered alley, seeking refuge from the
elements. She stood out from the rest of the ‘street people’ with her
floor length fur coat and boatload of makeup, mostly red, so it looked
as if she had stumbled upon a red crayon and scribbled on her face, or
maybe fallen face forward into a bucket of red paint. I remember a guy
turning to me one morning and remarking amusedly, “Well, isn’t that
something… begging for money and has the nerve to wear fur…
probably has a house in the suburbs and an SUV… I tell you, these
people, frauds every last one of them…” I didn’t smile because for
some reason I found his familiar approach a little annoying- he seemed
to assume that I would share his views on pan-handlers. It was
hypocritical of me, of course, as I was thinking the exact same thing;
my ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude came solely from the fact that I was
not forthright enough to voice my opinion out loud.

I grew bolder as the summer wore on, walking at an increasingly
leisurely pace past her, making brief eye contact and gaining
proximity. Why did I feel the need to work up courage to approach her and give her my money? I wish i could figure that one out. I did truly feel, (even though there was absolutely no
basis for this) like she was in a funny kind of way, my secret friend, and we were privy to an inside joke that the rest of the world was excluded from. She was leaning by her usual bus stop post clad in old nurses’ scrubs, sans requisite fur coat. Her lips were bright red as usual, but she had neglected to use her blush, or should I say rouge. I lingered around the general vicinity, pretending to be talking on my cell phone, while
observing her through the corner of my eye. She looked like she might have come from money, or at least dallied with it, I thought. One could almost imagine her seated in some
chauffeur driven luxury car, fur coat thrown carelessly on the seat
next to her, puffing away on a cigarette with an elegant cigarette
holder. For some reason, cigarette holders (circa 1800, I know) have always been the emblem
of the absurdly rich and proper for me. While not pretty, you could
tell that her face had been one that you would look at, at least once,
but age and hard street life had taken its toll, so she looked almost
blurred – like a smudged painting of a work titled maybe ‘The rich
man’s wife’ or something along those lines. “Can you spare a quarter,
Sir?” I turned around, startled. It occurred to me that I had never
heard her speak. In my head, I just knew that her voice would be
throaty and rich, as if from smoking too many cigarettes and hosting
the late night soirees that undoubtedly would have come with her
status. Instead it was high pitched, nasal and I reluctantly conceded,
annoying. She sounded like she was doing a bad imitation of some
character — maybe Eliza Dolittle in ‘My fair lady’ minus the cockney
accent. Feeling disappointed and strangely sad — like she had somehow
let me down by not sounding like I felt she would sound, I ventured
close to her, fumbling in my wallet for a five dollar bill. As I walked towards her I noticed she had turned away from me and was looking in the other direction. Determined, I turned around to face
her, “Here you go…” I said cheerily, smiling and gesturing towards
her cup. Her eyes- they were hazel- held mine for a second and I saw
scorn, or was it disgust, and she slowly, deliberately put her palm
over her cup and turned away. Stunned, I skulked away on wooden legs, praying that no one had seen me get rebuffed, (again, why did I care? ) I
could have sworn I heard her say, or maybe it was in my head, “I said
a quarter, Bitch…”

So much for good deeds, huh?