This is the Face of 6th Street

When I told her that she was beautiful she smiled like the Cheshire cat. She knew that I meant it too. I don’t think she’d heard that in awhile. You want to take my picture? She said. My picture? I told her that it would make my day. There was so much going on around her that wasn’t beautiful. The heroin touts were busy running back and forth from Natoma out to the cars idling on 6th Street, looking at me with Hyena smiles. I could feel a certain malice in the air, like a current in a wire. I said, All right, are you ready? I knew I didn’t have much time. A white man with a camera on 6th Street. She put her hands on her hips and looked up into my eyes. She couldn’t have been much over five feet tall. She had a story for sure. But we all do. Hers I knew would be different than mine, with all her belongings in a Hefty bag and living out there on 6th Street. She was a survivor though, stronger than I’d ever be. I showed her the picture on the back of the little screen. You’d think she’d never seen a mirror before. She was giddy over it, that little image. I wished I could have given it to her, to have, to keep forever. I wished she would always keep that little smile she smiled. I wished I could have given her back what was taken from her in the first place. I wished the five-dollar bill I gave her meant more than some token gesture to ease my conscience and that it might actually go toward a meal. And God I wish I had asked her her name.

o O o

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113 thoughts on “This is the Face of 6th Street

    • I wish I could sit down with all of you personally and shake your hands warmly. What a lovely thing to happen, such heartfelt praise for a teeny little photograph and one small conversation among hundreds I’ve had with some of our fellow travellers here on this planet of 7 billion. I want to know and photograph you all.

  1. I am so glad I ran across this post on freshly pressed! Recently I had a similar encounter that I wrote about. I met a beautiful, elderly woman living on the streets of Washington D.C. God showed me how truly beautiful she was and I wanted to take her picture, but was afraid to ask.
    Her face is etched on my heart and I will continue to pray for her. Thank you for sharing such beauty with the world! May God bless your talents and the many lives you touch.

    • She asked. I gave. Must I, too, be reduced to a binary? Must I be a color? A zero or a one? Does that make it easier? Everything nice and orderly. Classified. Contained. The body’s eyes see only clothing, flesh, form. Besides, if we must use colors to describe ourselves let’s at least strive for accuracy. No one is white. No one is black. We do have imaginations and the facility for description. As I look down on my skin at this very moment what I see can be be described as bread crust brown.

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